A Call to Arms - November, 2011

The following work titled A Call to Arms is a special report prepared for this blog by a cyberian colleague. Zoravar's work is captivating and in my opinion an accurate depiction of the turbulent geopolitical sea our little newly refurbished Armenian boat has been forced to navigate in during recent times. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, political hotspots have been popping up throughout the world like wild mushrooms. These political storms are concentrated around the Eurasian heartland - from Eastern Europe to Central Asia - and the potential for a major international war to engulf the region today is very real. Armenia, as usual, is in the middle of this man-made mess. Alarmingly, however, not many Armenians are paying much attention to this troubling reality as they continue preoccupying themselves with matters that are essentially petty when compared to the serious geopolitical dangers lurking around in Armenia's neighborhood.

With their once mighty economy faltering and with dwindling resources at their disposal, the Western alliance is desperate and they are working against the clock; the race against the time when Russia and China will be powerful enough economically and militarily to stop them from playing God on the global stage.

When the economies of major nations fail or when their political powers sway, major international wars are inevitable. This is a historic reality and this is the situation the global community is currently facing. Throughout the world major geopolitical shifts have been occurring in recent years and the political climate in many strategic regions are rapidly heating up. Having had near total global hegemony for much of the past one hundred years, the Western alliance is not about voluntarily relinquish its hard earned economic/political grip to upstarts. As I write this, battle-lines are being drawn and war plans are being made in various powerful capitols of the world.

To ensure/preserve its global supremacy in the new century, t
he Western alliance is systematically spreading its tentacles worldwide. Not yet fully recovered from its post-Soviet shock, the Russian Federation is busy fortifying its Eurasian fortress and in doing so protecting its vast natural wealth. China is rapidly building up its military capacity and strategically diversifying its gargantuan economy. Seeking direction and perhaps a new identity (having been letdown in its Eurotic dreams), Turkey is attempting to reincarnate the Ottoman empire. And an embattled Tehran is stubbornly preparing for a major military onslaught by the joint forces of US, British, Israeli and Persian Gulf Sunni Arab states...

Within this very complex and very volatile geopolitical climate many vulnerable nations such as Armenia are bracing themselves for the inevitable big bang.

Have no doubt, a third world war is in the making. As a matter of fact, we may already be in its preliminary stages. The numerous devastating wars that have already plagued this century, a century that is barely over ten years old, are simply the preparatory/preliminary phases of the impending major global confrontation. Although nothing is yet set in stone and a major global catastrophe can still be avoided, the near certain attack on Iran by the Anglo-American-Zionist alliance may in fact be the bloody trigger that will plunge the world into the third major global confrontation in a hundred years. Thus, the stakes are high. We can only pray that such an event does not turn nuclear, even one of limited scope.

None of what I'm saying here is an exaggeration. Washington has publicly hinted about the use of small "tactical" nuclear bombs in attacking nuclear production sites in Iran on more than one occasion, and Iran has stubbornly and persistently sworn to retaliate. Moreover, Israel just recently tested a ballistic missile capable of reaching Iran with a nuclear warhead. Fearing its global hegemony gradually slipping, the Western alliance has become rabid. What it will do to protect its diminishing political and economic weight in the world is anybody's guess.

As you can see, a turbulent sea has been created from Serbia to North Korea, from the north Caucasus to South Sudan. South America and Southeast Asia are not immune either. The Armenian state, essentially in the middle of this massive geopolitical mess, finds itself forced to carefully navigate these dangerous waters. Although the Armenian boat is rather small and it continues to lack an experienced crew on the control deck, thank God that its reliable sails were provided by the Bear. With Moscow watching its back, with some political unity, perseverance and the foresight of its sons and daughters, the Armenia state can survive the coming storm.

Below I present to you my colleague's gripping essay. Please read it. Below his work I have also posted several relevant news reports and geopolitical essays that I feel vividly enhances Zoravar's sobering message; namely that we are living in volatile times and the region in which Armenia unfortunately finds itself in has again turned into a powder-keg. Armenia cannot afford to make any mistakes. Consequently, and I realize the following will be a difficult notion for some Armenians to wrap their minds around, but Armenians must put aside their petty domestic/internal disputes and genuinely rally around the Armenian state. To weather the coming storm in a manner that will preserve the Armenian statehood, we, as a nation, must show our enemies and friends a united front.

Arevordi

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A Call to Arms

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Have a look at a world map. As a patriotic Armenian, you will probably want to first locate our diminutive but dear homeland in the south Caucasus. Next, have a look around our beloved country, please do not concentrate on the neighbors only, look a bit further…a few hundred or even a few thousand kilometers away. You may want to start with Afghanistan, the eternal hotspot where poverty, Islamic radicalism, terrorism and militaristic expansionism have converged…Do you even know why wars, killing and devastation have never left that country? Next, place your focus on the other "failed" state called Pakistan…and with all the political intrigues, back-stabbings, double-crossings coupled with a healthy dose of Islamism, poverty, corruption and superpower political/military/financial meddling and arm-wrestling, where do you think that country is heading?
Move a bit to the west and now concentrate on Iran, the ancient culture, the oil wealth … the sworn enemy of Israel and the Anglo-American alliance. They are under sanctions, under pressure, under constant threat not only from the above countries, but also from historic rivals Turkey and Sunni regimes in the Arab world. Do you sometimes wonder who the Iranians think their worst enemy is? Israel, the USA, Turkey or the Sunni Arabs? Keep going west and discover the wonderful “democracy” that has been “imposed” on Iraq… or should I say what’s left of Iraq because the autonomous Northern Kurdistan province is for all intents and purposes independent… or perhaps too dependent from a superpower. This multi-ethnic cradle of human civilization is nothing but a gunpowder barrel ready to explode at the slightest geopolitical change in the region…stay tuned for the next big episode of bloodletting in this ancient land of Mesopotamia where Saddam is now almost forgotten.
Now, head north to have a look at Turkey… or should I say the Ottoman Empire wannabe. Despite their many problems like their persistent troubles with their Kurdish population and their hands still bloody from the Armenian Genocide, not only has Ankara not forgotten their Pan-Turanian dreams they are also looking forward to re-establishing their beloved empire that they lost to other imperialists… When Turkey is not busy collaborating with Israel, they just clash with them. They are for the "hearts and minds" of Sunni Arabs in problematic places like Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere. Their propaganda laden diplomatic offensive was begun a while ago. Ankara wants to re-establish themselves as the Ottoman rulers in a more modern 21st century manner. Many Arabs in the aforementioned countries are already looking at Turkey as their model of an Islamic state. The Turks are now the reincarnated Saladdin… Just what the Arabs need: a foreign savior.
You may think that I will now ask you travel further south into the Arab world, particularly Lebanon and Syria where many of our ancestors who survived the Genocide settled. No, instead I will invite you to jump across the Bosphorus and move in to Europe only to find Greece and many other European nations sinking in their own debt… The financial issues of Greece will become trivial if you look at what used to be Yugoslavia… Divided and re-divided on the basis of ethnicity, religion, corruption or maybe just because larger powers want it that way… Do you really think that that part of the world is in peace?
Well, there you go. In case you were running it across all the above countries on the map, did you feel your finger burning? If you did it's because these places are defined as hotspots. And these political hotspots are at the periphery of our homeland which is itself blockaded from the east and west, flanked in the south by the favorite bogeyman of the Western press, and has to share a border with a country called Georgia, a nation that is for all intents and purposes ruled from a major capital across the Atlantic... Yes, what a recipe for trouble! A superpower playing "adventurism" in the backyard of another one by politically, financially and militarily supporting a corrupt and monopolistic autocracy run by a perfectly designed, molded, shaped and prepared puppet called Saakashvili. His nose was bloodied once during the brief August 2008 war. Now that the real Russian Bear (Putin) is expected to be elected president of a fast re-emerging Russia, do you think there will be a round two and a knock-off punch delivered right at Armenia's doorsteps? What will be Armenia's role in that mess? Where does Javaghk fall in all of that?
I have lived in Lebanon during the seventies and part of the eighties to witness the civil war that was the result of ethnic intolerance, foreign diplomatic meddling, radicalism, imperialistic military adventurism, foreign military presence, terrorism, etc., etc. Now, I am petrified watching whole regions that I discussed in the above paragraphs metamorphizing into a gigantic Lebanon-like entity that will inevitably see major conflicts and wars flare up with slightest shifts in geopolitics or by simple military adventurism. I am worried about our Homeland. I am worried about our brothers and sisters living in places like Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere in the region. Yet, I do see some bright light. Actually, I see two things going the right way for us.
First, we have (at last) some "real" leadership in our country. Our 3 consecutive presidents since independence and their respective governments are far from perfect, but they are the kind of leaders that we desperately needed. Despite many lingering domestic issues and problems, they were able – despite all the difficulties - to put the country on the correct political track and forge the right alliances and relationships. Our military alliance with Russia was the most crucial and correct decision that was ever made by any Armenian leader for a long period of time. Thanks to that military treaty, no one can attack Armenia, no one can blackmail Armenia, no one can terrorize Armenia. The Russians are just as worried as Armenians about the political hotspots stretching for thousands of kilometers along their south and west. Couple that with ethno-religious radicalism in some of their north Caucasus republics (Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia) and the Russians feel they need us just as much as we need them: hence the alliance.
For the Russians, Armenia is their heavily guarded fortress at the edge of their influence zone. Armenia is the strategic barrier that stops the spread of Islamism and Turkism into their southern Caucasus region. The Russians know very well that if they loose Armenia, they will eventually loose their north Caucasus republics to Turkey’s Turanian dreams. For Russian leaders, Armenia must be strong and untouchable. Well, how about Artsakh? Does the military alliance treaty between Russia and Armenia cover that region as well? On paper it does not, but for all intents and purpose Artsakh is just as untouchable because the Russian Federation is making sure that the military balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan is remaining in favor of the former. Furthermore, the Medvedev-Putin-Lavrov trio are maintaining the military status-quo without alienating Azerbaijan. Moscow is successfully keeping Baku, to a certain degree, under their influence (just like the USA makes sure no one can touch Israel while selling billions worth of arms to oil rich Arab sheikhdoms).

The recent military parades in both Baku and Yerevan highlighted the above. Aliyev is spending billions of his petrodollars to gain a substantial military advantage over Armenia, and he clearly showed all his might during their parade only to be spat upon the face when Armenia's defense ministry disclosed some very capable weapons systems like the S-300, Tochka and Scud missiles, weaponry that are beyond the financial means of our small economy… all of them being compliments of the Kremlin! One can wonder where we are supposed to use all these Russian weapons? Is it to defend ourselves against some foolish attack from the Sultan in Baku, or is it to be used against another country when wars occur in the region and Moscow and Yerevan may want to seize an opportunity?
Second, I see our nation re-invigorated. The tough times Armenia had to go through (e.g. devastating earthquake, illegal blockade and a war of liberation) and the continuing threat of yet another war has made Armenians tougher. We are learning, adapting, adjusting and taking the initiative. Our inherent creativity is bearing fruit. The 2011 Milex Arms exhibition in Minsk and the more recent military parade in Yerevan revealed what Armenians on a shoestring budget can come up with: "Grung" unmanned aerial reconnaissance aircraft, battlefield radars and high-tech electronic and optical devices among other things. As our enemies are only now beginning to find out, the extremely challenging times and the ongoing blockade may have had a positive effect on Armenia. If necessity is the mother of all inventions… the creative, intelligent and hard working Armenians can surely invent.
We Armenians need to be ready for the inevitable conflicts that the region will unfortunately witness. Our domestic problems should be placed permanently on the back burner and our people must cluster around our current and future leaders despite all the contentious internal matters. Elections and political rallying should be conducted in the most civilized of manners. Armenia's opposition news press needs to temper its incendiary style of reporting. Our many enemies would love to see us divided and weak. Armenia is militarily strong, our population goes through 2 years of military service, they know how to fight. If we remain united and embrace our leadership, victory will be the certain outcome.
A word to diaspora Armenians: Be mentally, physically and psychologically ready to provide all possible assistance to our brothers and sisters in the Homeland, be it financial or otherwise. Armenia can always use a few more people like Monte. In case you happen to be living in volatile places like the Middle East, make sure you are familiar to the use of firearms while remaining in compliance with the laws of the country you live in. Be prepared to protect yourselves and your loved ones. No one should be allowed to walk over us.
Zoravar
November, 2011


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Armenia To Boost Army In 2012

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The Armenian military has revealed plans to recruit new professional soldiers and acquire more weapons next year as part of a 5.6 percent increase in defense spending envisaged by the draft state budget for 2012. Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian said late on Tuesday that Armenia’s military expenditures will total 150 billion drams ($400 million) if the budget is approved by parliament. Ohanian told journalists that the additional expenditures proposed by the government would primarily finance recruitment of more military personnel and resulting “structural changes” in the country’s armed forces. Speaking after the first parliamentary hearings on the budget, he gave no details of the planned expansion.

The Armenian Defense Ministry is apparently keen to increase the number of soldiers serving in the largely conscription-based army on a contractual basis. That number has already grown significantly over the past decade. News agencies also quoted Ohanian as saying that the extra funding sought by the government and the military would also be spent on fresh arms purchases as well as “the maintenance and exploitation of recently acquired systems and devices.” He did not elaborate. Armenia’s officially declared military spending will thus continue to pale in comparison with arch-foe Azerbaijan’s defense and security budget which is projected to reach $3.3 billion this year, up from $2.15 billion in 2010.

Armenia has been trying to offset this spending gap through close military ties with Russia that entitle it to receiving Russian weapons at discount prices or even for free. A new Russian-Armenian defense agreement signed in August 2010 commits Moscow to helping Yerevan obtain “modern and compatible weaponry and (special) military hardware.” The Armenian military demonstrated some of its new weaponry, including S-300 air-defense systems, during a high-profile parade staged in September. Ohanian insisted after the parade that Yerevan is maintaining “the balance of forces” with Baku despite the latter’s massive military buildup fuelled by oil revenues.

Source: http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/24379553.html

Russian Army Chief Visits Armenia Again

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The commander-in-chief of Russia's ground forces has visited Armenia where he met top Armenian military officials and inspected Russian troops stationed in the country, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports. The Armenian Defense Ministry gave no details of Colonel General Aleksandr Postnikov's talks with Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and the chief of the Armenian army's General Staff, Colonel General Yuri Khachaturov.

A ministry statement said the main purpose of Postnikov's three-day trip -- which ended on November 2 -- was to "verify and oversee" an ongoing "optimization of the order of deployment" of the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri. It said he inspected various units and facilities at the base. Postnikov already visited Armenia twice in April for the same purpose. Armenian and Russian military officials have since given few details of the redeployment of Russian troops. It is unknown whether their overall number will change as a result of the redistribution

Senior Russian Defense Ministry official Andrei Gusev said in June that "excess weaponry and military hardware" from the Russian base will be transferred to the Armenian army for free as part of the redeployment. He did not elaborate. Gusev assured lawmakers in Moscow that that the "optimization" will not affect the combat-readiness of Russian troops. The Russian base has up to 5,000 soldiers, more than 100 tanks and armored personnel carriers, S-300 air defense missiles, and a squadron of MiG-29 fighter jets. A Russian-Armenian agreement signed in August 2010 extended the Russian military presence in Armenia by 24 years, until 2044, and upgraded its security mission. The deal also committed Moscow to supplying Armenia with modern weaponry.

The Russian troop presence, a major element of Armenia's national security doctrine, was called into question in April when Georgia decided not to renew a Russian-Georgian agreement that allowed Moscow to use Georgian territory for shipments to Armenia. The Armenian Defense Ministry downplayed the Georgian move at the time, saying that it will not lead to any "change in Armenia's security environment."

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/russian_army_chief_visits_armenia_again/24381168.html

Armenian-Russian Joint Military Exercises End With Success

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Military servicemen of Russia and Armenia on Monday successfully wrapped up their joint training exercises toward carrying out defensive battles under mountainous conditions, the Russian army’s press service informed. At present, units from the Russian army’s 102nd Military Base in Armenia are moving from Alagyaz Rifle Range toward Gyumri city, their permanent location. More than 500 military servicemen took part in, and close to 200-unit weapons and military equipment were used, from the Russian side, during the joint military exercises, which had started on October 27. And From the Armenian side, around 300 servicemen participated in, and 50-unit weapons and military equipment were used during the military training.

Source: http://news.am/eng/news/80049.html

Turkey to Give Military Support Azerbaijan, Says Minister

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Turkey is ready to extend support to the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, Turkey’s defense minister said in Baku yesterday. “We are ready to support, cooperate and join in production with Azerbaijan Armed Forces,” Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz told journalists after visiting former Azerbaijani President Haydar Aliyev’s grave in Baku.

“A bilateral strategic cooperation agreement [between Turkey and Azerbaijan] has been signed. Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and [Azerbaijani] President Ilham Aliyev have also decided on the establishment of a high advisory council,” Yılmaz said.

The council will be the basis for the relations between the two countries, Yılmaz said, adding that there were good and sound relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Yılmaz is currently visiting Baku for meetings with Azerbaijani Defense Minister Sefer Abiyev and was received by Aliyev upon arrival. Turkish Ambassador to Baku Hulusi Kılıç and Turkey’s defense attaché in Azerbaijan, Brig. Gen. Yücel Karauz, were present at the meeting between Aliyev and Yılmaz yesterday.

Source: http://www.turkishweekly.net/news/125027/turkey-to-give-military-support-azerbaijan-says-minister.html


Azerbaijani-Turkish Joint Military Training Expected to Take Place

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The existing level of Azerbaijani-Turkish relations makes it necessary to conduct joint military trainings, Zahid Oruj, MP and member of the Parliament's Security and Defense Committee, told Trend on Wednesday. He said the Azerbaijani-Turkish relations rose to a more significant level due to the Council for Strategic Cooperation established last year. "After the Council was established, it became clear that cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey was at the stage of becoming the real, working model having functional goals where structuring is broadly practiced and tasks were distributed," he noted.

The agreement envisions cooperation in the sphere of defense and in other spheres between Azerbaijan and Turkey, assistance in supply of arms, and cooperation between production units, the MP said. The agreement of establishment of the Council for high-level Strategic Cooperation creates legal base for that, he believes. "In the past, generals and officers of Turkish Armed Forces helped form the military system of Azerbaijan. It is now time to establish common commandment and exchange mutual military experience through military trainings," Oruj said.

He said Azerbaijan needs Turkey's experience. Azerbaijan can always offer its support to fight Turkey's enemies. The issue of military trainings, regardless from who and what conclusions makes of this, meets our national interests and security, he believes. "Joint military trainings will create perfect opportunities for to-be cooperation," Oruj said.

Source: http://en.trend.az/news/politics/1953034.html

Aliyev Voices the “Great Turkic World” Idea in Kazakhstan Summit

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The Cooperation Council of Turkic Language Speaking States held a summit last week in the capital of Kazakhstan. This institute of Turkic solidarity was established by the decision made two years ago during the 9th Summit of leaders of Turkic language speaking states in Nakhijevan. It was an outstanding summit when in the presence of leaders of Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and high-ranking officials from a number of other Turkic language speaking states, Azeri president Ilham Aliyev stated: “Nachijevan is an ancient Azeri land. The separation of Zangezur- a historically authentic Azeri land – from Azerbaijan and its annexation to Armenia at the time geographically dismembered the great Turkic world.”

Armenia viewed this statement as a potential threat, and as an expression of pan-Turkism only under new political circumstances. And so now the first summit of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Language Speaking States was held in Almaty, during which the Azeri president declared: “Turkic world is a great world! We have to make it become even more united. We have all the means for that. First of all, there is a strong political will.”

This might seem like an innocent statement. However, from the perspective of the Armenian perception of the very concept of “Turkic world” is quite unequivocally associated with “the Great Turan” (Turan is the Persian word for Central Asia) - the very idea by which the Armenian nation has been victimized. In the beginning of last century two innocent scientific concepts (Turkic and Aryan) were used by Pan-Turkism followers and Nazis in a way that the contemporary usage of these terms can’t help but objectively sound ominous.

During the summit Aliyev also stressed: “The main issue Azerbaijan is facing is the Armenian-Azeri one, the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. It is a source of the biggest threat and injustice not only towards us, but the whole region. Armenia committed ethnic purges against Azeris. As a result of that policy around one million Azeris have become refugees and migrants in their own motherland; 20 percent of our lands are occupied.” Obviously, such statements cannot be purely viewed in the context organizers of such summits commonly voice: “strengthening economic and cultural ties with brother republics”. Quite the opposite, it perfectly fits into the historic context.

Back in 1933, during the period of drastic cooling of relations between Moscow and Ankara, Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal stated: “One day Russia will lose control over the nations it is keeping tightly in its hands today. The world then would reach a new level. And at that very moment Turkey has to know exactly what to do. Our brothers by blood, faith and language are under Russia’s reign. We have to be ready to support them. Our common language is our bridge, our common faith is our bridge, our common history is our bridge. We have to remember our roots. We should not wait for them to reach out for us; we have to draw nearer to them ourselves. One fine day Russia will fall.”

This “eastern vector” specified by the founder of the republican Turkey has remained the most important guideline for the country’s political elite for the following several decades. Leader of modern Turkey Abdulla Gul’s speech at the Nakhijevan summit is exemplary: “Nakhijevan is native and precious not only to Azerbaijan, but to Turkey as well. The border between Azerbaijan and Turkey in the Nakhijevani region is physically small, but politically this 10-12-kilometer-long border has huge significance. This border of ours is a symbolic transition geographically linking Turkey with Turkic republics.”

If today’s use of the term “Aryan” is under strict “international control” (and is practically impossible from high international rostrums), things are different with the “Turkic” concept. To a certain extent, it is a consequence of who has, and when, condemned the crimes committed by Nazis and Pan-Turkism supporters. It is the lack of the total international condemnation of the crime of the Armenian Genocide that has allowed the concept of “Turkic” to return into the scientific ethno-linguistic arena, and conditions the world community’s indifference to the application of that ominous term today.

Source: http://armenianow.com/commentary/analysis/32626/aliev_panturkism_summit_armenia_zangezur

‘If You Want Peace, Prepare For War,’ Says Turkish Defense Chief

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Citing the proverb, “if you want peace, prepare for war,” Turkey’s Defense Minister on Thursday underscored the importance of military cooperation between Turkey and Azerbaijan as he kicked off talks in Baku. The Turkish delegation led by Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz met with Azerbaijani Defense Minister, Colonel General Safar Abiyev, Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press service reported. The ministers exchanged view on the prospects of military cooperation between the two countries. Discussing the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the ministers said that the time has come to withdraw “Armenian occupation army from the Azerbaijani lands and restore the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.”

Abiyev said that although negotiations continue for peaceful settlement of the conflict, there is no concrete result yet and Armenia continues its aggressive policy. He said, in such situation, there is no other way for Azerbaijan except preparing its armed forces seriously. “We are ready to support, cooperate and join in production with Azerbaijan Armed Forces,” Yılmaz told journalists after visiting former Azerbaijani President Haydar Aliyev’s grave in Baku. “A bilateral strategic cooperation agreement [between Turkey and Azerbaijan] has been signed. Turkish Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] and [Azerbaijani] President Ilham Aliyev have also decided on the establishment of a high advisory council,” Yılmaz said.

The council will be the basis for the relations between the two countries, Yılmaz said, adding that there were good and sound relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Prior to arriving in Baku, Yilmaz was interviewed by the Azeri news agency APA, saying that Turkey would like to engage in more defense production with Azerbaijan. “Turkey and Azerbaijan have a comprehensive military partnership based on long years and mutual confidence. Our relations, which started after Azerbaijan regained its independence, have developed with education, training and other programs. We continue making efforts to unite our potential in the defence industry. We can see that the relevant bodies of the two countries have a shared demand and desire,” said Yilmaz.

“As the Turkish proverb says: ‘If you want peace, prepare for war.’ The presence of factors threatening stability in the South Caucasus poses a serious threat to Azerbaijan’s independence and regional peace,” added Yilmaz who explained that approximately 5,000 Azerbaijanis have received military education in Turkey to date. “We aim to develop our military and defence relations with Azerbaijan. The education of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in accordance with NATO standards, weapons and maintenance is very important for the region’s stability. Turkey supports Azerbaijan’s relations with NATO and other Western organizations. We think that Azerbaijan-NATO cooperation within Partnership for Peace is profitable and that this cooperation is significant from the point of view of Azerbaijan’s economic and political interests,” added Yilmaz.

Source: http://asbarez.com/98652/%E2%80%98if-you-want-peace-prepare-for-war%E2%80%99-says-turkish-defense-chief/

In Slap at Syria, Turkey Shelters Anti-Assad Fighters

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Once one of Syria’s closest allies, Turkey is hosting an armed opposition group waging an insurgency against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, providing shelter to the commander and dozens of members of the group, the Free Syrian Army, and allowing them to orchestrate attacks across the border from inside a camp guarded by the Turkish military. The support for the insurgents comes amid a broader Turkish campaign to undermine Mr. Assad’s government. Turkey is expected to impose sanctions soon on Syria, and it has deepened its support for an umbrella political opposition group known as the Syrian National Council, which announced its formation in Istanbul. But its harboring of leaders in the Free Syrian Army, a militia composed of defectors from the Syrian armed forces, may be its most striking challenge so far to Damascus.

On Wednesday, the group, living in a heavily guarded refugee camp in Turkey, claimed responsibility for killing nine Syrian soldiers, including one uniformed officer, in an attack in restive central Syria. Turkish officials describe their relationship with the group’s commander, Col. Riad al-As’aad, and the 60 to 70 members living in the “officers’ camp” as purely humanitarian. Turkey’s primary concern, the officials said, is for the physical safety of defectors. When asked specifically about allowing the group to organize military operations while under the protection of Turkey, a Foreign Ministry official said that their only concern was humanitarian protection and that they could not stop them from expressing their views.

“At the time all of these people escaped from Syria, we did not know who was who, it was not written on their heads ‘I am a soldier’ or ‘I am an opposition member,’ ” a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on the condition of anonymity in keeping with diplomatic protocol. “We are providing these people with temporary residence on humanitarian grounds, and that will continue.”

At the moment, the group is too small to pose any real challenge to Mr. Assad’s government. But its Turkish support underlines how combustible, and resilient, Syria’s uprising has proven. The country sits at the intersection of influences in the region — with Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Israel — and Turkey’s involvement will be closely watched by Syria’s friends and foes. “We will fight the regime until it falls and build a new period of stability and safety in Syria,” Colonel As’aad said in an interview arranged by the Turkish Foreign Ministry and conducted in the presence of a Foreign Ministry official. “We are the leaders of the Syrian people and we stand with the Syrian people.”

The interview was held in the office of a local government official, and Colonel As’aad arrived protected by a contingent of 10 heavily armed Turkish soldiers, including one sniper. The colonel wore a business suit that an official with the Turkish Foreign Ministry said he purchased for him that morning. At the end of the meeting, citing security concerns, the colonel and a ministry official advised that all further contact with his group be channeled through the ministry. Turkey once viewed its warm ties with Syria as its greatest foreign policy accomplishment, but relations have collapsed over the eight months of antigovernment protests there and a brutal crackdown that the United Nations says has killed more than 3,000 people.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was personally offended by Mr. Assad’s repeated failure to abide by his assurances that he would undertake sweeping reform. Turkish officials predict that the Assad government may collapse within the next two years. “This pushes Turkish policy further towards active intervention in Syria,” said Hugh Pope, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. He called Turkey’s apparent relationship with the Free Syrian Army “completely new territory.” “It is clear Turkey feels under threat from what is happening in the Middle East, particularly Syria,” said Mr. Pope, who noted that in past speeches Mr. Erdogan “has spoken of what happens in Syria as an internal affair of Turkey.”

Turkish officials say that their government has not provided weapons or military support to the insurgent group, and that the group has not directly requested such assistance. Still, Colonel As’aad, who thanked Turkey for its protection, made it clear that he was seeking better weapons, saying that his group could inflict damage on a Syrian leadership that has proven remarkably cohesive. “We ask the international community to provide us with weapons so that we, as an army, the Free Syrian Army, can protect the people of Syria,” he said. “We are an army, we are in the opposition, and we are prepared for military operations. If the international community provides weapons, we can topple the regime in a very, very short time.”

The words seemed more boast than threat, and with mass pro-government rallies and a crackdown that has, for now, stanched the momentum of antigovernment demonstrations, the Syrian government appears in a stronger position than it did this summer. Though deeply isolated, Syria’s government felt emboldened by the vetoes of Russia and China of a relatively tough United Nations Security Council resolution. Despite predictions otherwise, the military and the security services, in particular, have yet to fracture in the eight months of a grinding, bloody crackdown.

Colonel As’aad said he defected from the military and fled to Turkey after protests erupted in his home village, Ebdeeta, in northern Idlib Province, drawing a government crackdown in which several relatives were killed and his sister’s house was shelled. But he also fled, he said, because “I knew there was greater potential to lead operations in a place in which I was free.”

He said all the residents of the camp where he lives in Turkey are members of the Free Syrian Army. The camp includes a personal assistant and a “media office” staffed by about a half-dozen people. He said the group’s fighters were highly organized, though only armed with weapons they took when they defected or those taken from slain members of Syrian security and pro-government forces. He would not specify the number of fighters, saying only that it was more than 10,000, and he was unwilling to disclose the number of battalions, claiming that the group had 18 “announced” battalions and an unspecified number of secret ones. None of his claims could be independently verified. “Our strategy for the future is that we will confront the regime in its weak places, and in the next period we hope to acquire weapons so we can be able to face the regime more strongly,” Colonel As’aad said.

Though many analysts contend that defectors’ attacks in Syria appear uncoordinated and local, Colonel As’aad claimed to be in full operational control. He said that he was in charge of planning “full military operations” while leaving smaller clashes and day-to-day decisions up to commanders in the field. Nevertheless, he is in daily contact with the commanders of each battalion, he said, spending hours a day checking e-mail on a laptop connected to one of four telephones — including a satellite phone — provided to him by Syrian expatriates living in the United States, Europe and the Persian Gulf.

Andrew Tabler, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the emergence of the fledgling group was crucial to the larger question of whether the opposition would stick to peaceful protest, as it largely has, or if it would “go down another path to fighting back.” “They are organized and they are speaking to people outside,” Mr. Tabler said. “But the question is to what degree are they receiving financial support from people outside, such as individuals in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/28/world/europe/turkey-is-sheltering-antigovernment-syrian-militia.html

Turkey Pursues Kurdish Rebels After 24 Soldiers Are Killed Near Iraq

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Kurdish militants killed at least 24 Turkish soldiers in an attack near the Iraq border on Wednesday, one of the deadliest strikes in years, and Turkey’s military responded by sending hundreds of troops into northern Iraq in a counterattack on Kurdish insurgent hide-outs. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkish forces were pursuing the attackers, making it clear that his military was crossing the Iraq border, which the Turks have done numerous times in their protracted effort to crush a resilient Kurdish insurgency movement.

“As of now, wide-reaching operations, including hot-pursuit operations, are continuing in the region within the framework of international law,” Mr. Erdogan said at a news conference in Ankara. “We will combat terror on one front and, on another front, we will continue our path to destroy the grounds that terror manipulates.”

He spoke after having conferred with senior government officials at an emergency meeting about the deadly Kurdish militant attack, which the prime minister’s office said had also left at least 18 Turkish soldiers wounded. NTV, a private television network, said 600 Turkish ground troops chasing the attackers pushed 2.5 miles into northern Iraq, where the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a militant separatist group known as the P.K.K., is based. The group has long battled the Turkish government for autonomy in the predominantly Kurdish southeast.

Local media also reported Turkish air deployments and artillery fire in the mountainous border area. The militant strike, which started in the early hours of Wednesday, mainly in Hakkari Province, lasted for about four hours. It came a day after a blast in Bitlis, another southeastern province, that killed five policemen and three civilians. Using unusually harsh language, President Abdullah Gul vowed in an earlier speech that the country would strike back against the Kurdish militants. He had visited military bases in the region only days before.

“They will see that the revenge for these attacks will be massive and much stronger,” he said. “Embracing our own people, being affectionate to our people, protecting rights and law of our people is one thing while struggling against terror without compromise is a joint decision of both our state and the nation,” he said.

President Obama also condemned the Kurdish attack in a statement issued by the White House. “The United States will continue our strong cooperation with the Turkish government as it works to defeat the terrorist threat from the P.K.K. and to bring peace, stability and prosperity to all the people of southeast Turkey,” Mr. Obama said. The top commander in the Turkish Army flew to the region to coordinate the operation on Wednesday, local media reported. The attacks came at a time when the country is drafting a new constitution with greater rights for ethnic minorities. The effort is widely perceived as designed to end Kurdish separatist violence that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since the 1980s.

“In today’s Turkey when there is a better democracy to respond the Kurdish needs, the P.K.K. terror is no different than Osama bin Laden’s terror manipulating Islam in the way it manipulates Kurdish ethnicity,” said Ihsan Bal, a security expert at the Ankara-based International Strategic Research Organization. The P.K.K. has escalated attacks in recent months in rural and urban areas. The Turkish military has responded with airstrikes and artillery attacks against the group’s bases in northern Iraq, killing as many as 160 militants, according to the Turkish military.

Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, signaled during an official visit in Ankara last week that the Iraqi Army could join military efforts to eliminate P.K.K. bases in northern Iraq. At the same time, however, the Iraqi government, as well as Kurdish officials in the northern Iraq, have expressed concern about unilateral Turkish military interventions in Iraq’s territory. Laid Abawi, Iraq’s deputy foreign minister, said in response to the Turkey military operations on Wednesday that it was still trying to learn details.

Mr. Abawi said, “We are against Turkey violating our borders and we are against the shelling.” But he also said, “We condemn the armed operations of the P.K.K. in Turkey.” The United States, along with the European Union and Turkey, list the P.K.K. as a terrorist organization and have shared intelligence with Turkey on the group’s movements in northern Iraq since 2007. “As a friend and ally, the United States will continue to stand with the people and government of Turkey in their fight against the P.K.K., which the United States has officially designated as a terrorist organization,” the American ambassador to Ankara, Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., said in a written statement.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/20/world/europe/dozens-dead-in-attacks-on-turkish-forces.html

US-Turkish Security Cooperation Deepens

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The US-Turkish bilateral relationship is entering a new period of cooperation. While part of the positive mood characterizing the relationship is attributable to the US-Turkish coordinated action in the context of the Arab Spring, the recent changes in Turkey’s threat perceptions have also played a role. Overall, although the rejuvenation of the partnership might be welcome news, the manner in which it has come about reflects an underlying weakness in US-Turkish ties, i.e., it is still characterized by a security-dominant discourse.

After many years of confrontation during the Bush Presidency, epitomized by Turkey’s resistance to US plans prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Turkish leaders welcomed the election of President Barack Obama (EDM, November 7, 2008). Although Obama’s call for a fresh approach to US foreign policy in the Middle East excited the Turks, both parties were often involved in disagreements and clashed over many issues. Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with Israel caused discomfort on the part of US policy makers, and the US policy of pursuing punitive measures against the Iranian nuclear program angered the Turkish government. The resulting frictions were not limited to the Middle East, as Turkey and the United States diverged on other issues, such as Turkey’s stalled rapprochement with Armenia or Turkey’s posturing in NATO.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, both parties increasingly coordinate their policies. Ankara and Washington have given up their initial silence and increasingly supported the popular uprisings in the region. On Egypt, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan maintained close dialogue with Obama, as he adopted a pro-democracy position and called for the end of Mubarak’s rule. Despite Erdogan’s initial criticism of NATO’s military intervention in Libya, Turkey later joined the coalition and became an ardent supporter of the opposition that eventually toppled Gaddafi. On Syria, Turkey, in line with the Western world, has advocated regime change, moving in the direction of imposing sanctions on the Baath regime (EDM, July 20, August 10).

The changing threat perceptions have also drawn the two countries together. For the US, the planned withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan make Turkey an indispensable partner in the region. As the entire region experiences a period of turmoil, with its constructive policies toward these war-torn countries, Ankara emerges as an element of stability that can help fill the security vacuum and safeguard some US interests. Turkey’s constructive attitude in Iraq has been known for some time, as it had helped contain the deepening of civil conflict and extended assistance to facilitate US withdrawal from the country. In the context of Afghanistan, Turkey has also actively worked to mobilize the regional and international actors for the reconstruction of this country, a goal the United States deeply appreciates. In this context, Turkey hosted the latest round of the trilateral summit in Istanbul in the first week of November, which brought together the Afghan and Pakistani presidents under the Turkish President’s watch (Anadolu Ajansi, November 3).

For Turkey, the primary motivation for reinvigorating the relationship is its immediate security concerns, which have been heightened in recent months. In response to the acceleration of the PKK’s terrorist campaign, Turkey’s military shortcomings in counter-terrorism increasingly underscore its ongoing dependence on the US for its defense procurement needs. Moreover, as the Middle East has been more volatile – characterized by a heightened risk environment – Turkey obviously needs a more solid anchor. These new conditions apparently resulted in Ankara reevaluating its ties with Washington, and abandoning its confrontational rhetoric, which resulted in a series of recent decisions.

Indeed, Turkey-US security cooperation has remarkably increased recently. The most visible indication for this policy shift came with Ankara’s decision to host the NATO early warning radars on its soil (EDM, September 20). Later, the United States committed to Turkey’s fight against the PKK, by agreeing to the basing of US unmanned Predator drones at Incirlik base to supply Turkey with actionable intelligence. Moreover, an interagency delegation led by US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Alexander Vershbow, to discuss how to improve the joint struggle against the PKK was another major development (Anadolu Ajansi, October 28).

Furthermore, Washington finally decided to sell three Super Cobra helicopters to Turkey, which Turkey had requested for some time in order to use against the PKK (www.ntvmsnbc.com, October 30). The fact that the sale is unlikely to encounter opposition from the Senate, despite many lawmakers’ discomfort with Turkey’s harsh policy on Israel, has underscored how largely the administration’s views on Turkey is shared in the US policy community. It was against this background that Turkey’s Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz, while attending the American-Turkish Council’s annual conference in Washington, argued that Turkey and the US are rediscovering each other and are going through a unique period (Anadolu Ajansi, November 2).

Despite this positive mood, however, the reinvigoration of the US-Turkish partnership in many ways resembles the dynamics of bilateral relations in the Cold War and early post-Cold War era, when security-related considerations formed the basis of the alliance. Various efforts to bolster the volume of economic ties and foster closer societal dialogue still continue but the prevalence of security issues is undeniable. It remains to be seen how sustainable this new cooperative phase is, especially if one factors in the possible change of administration following the US presidential elections.

Even the current administration continues to accentuate the need for Turkey to mend ties with Israel, which currently remains uncertain and an element of instability in the Eastern Mediterranean. Nor is it clear if the efforts to pass a resolution in the US Congress on the genocide allegations might spoil the relations again, as the centennial of the 1915 events is approaching. But, at any rate, currently the United States acknowledges Turkey’s quest for a more autonomous foreign policy course in the Middle East, which it views as beneficial to US interests. Turkey, for its part, is aware of the US interests in the region and refrains from engaging unduly confrontation, as was the case in the Iranian nuclear issue.

Source: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=38638&tx_ttnews[backPid]=390&cHash=b2aacffe35a4e0b2905c35a6b2474bb8

Israel Tests Missile For Iran Strike

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Israel has test-launched a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to Iran, amid claims Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking cabinet support for a military strike. The test, believed to have involved a long-range Jericho missile yesterday, came a week after Israeli warplanes practised a long-range bombing mission in Italy - prompting speculation that the cabinet is considering a pre-emptive strike before Iran can complete its first nuclear weapon. A Whitehall source yesterday said Britain was reviewing its contingency planning for possible military action against Iran. This is thought to include the positioning of British naval ships and ways to keep the Gulf open should Iran retaliate against international oil shipments.

The International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to publish a detailed report next week about Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program. An Israeli official said Mr Netanyahu was working with Defence Minister Ehud Barak to win support from members of the cabinet who oppose attacking Iranian nuclear facilities, Haaretz newspaper reported. The report came after days of renewed public discussion among Israeli commentators about the possibility that the Jewish state would take unilateral military action against Iran. Haaretz said Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak had already scored a significant win by convincing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to throw his support behind a strike. But the newspaper cited the Israeli official as saying those opposed to an attack still held "a small advantage" in the cabinet.

Reports said there was opposition from army and intelligence chiefs. Yesterday's test drew a menacing response from the regime in Tehran. Major-General Hassan Fayrouz Abadi, the chief of staff, was quoted as saying the Islamic Republic would cause "serious damage" to the US and to Israel if it were attacked. The Israeli media said last week that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Barak favoured a pre-emptive strike on Iran similar to that carried out on Iraq in 1981, when Saddam Hussein's fledgling reactor was bombed by Israeli jets. Israel did the same to a suspected Syrian reactor in 2007. Military analysts have warned that for any airstrike to have a chance of halting Iran's nuclear program, which is spread over a number of diverse sites - some built into mountainsides - a large strike force would be needed and heavy losses would be incurred.

There would also be the risk of a long war with Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Both have been provided by Tehran with missiles capable of striking across Israel. Mr Netanyahu has helped galvanise the West to apply pressure on Iran, but his campaign lost much of its urgency this year when Meir Dagan, the respected outgoing head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, said Iran was not as close to completing a bomb as was generally believed. This was partly because of the Stuxnet computer virus that disrupted its centrifuges, and which is thought to have been developed by the US and Israel. Mr Dagan said a military strike on Iran would be a "stupid idea". The US, which like Israel has declined to rule out military action to prevent Iran developing a nuclear weapons capability, refused to be drawn on the Israeli media reports.

"I'm not going to respond to that kind of speculation," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "We remain focused on a diplomatic channel here, a diplomatic course in terms of dealing with Iran." A poll showed the Israeli government would have support at home for a strike. The Dialog polling institute found 41 cent of 500 surveyed backed such an action while 39 per cent opposed the idea.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/02/israeli-army-test-fires-missile?intcmp=239

Iran 'is ready for war': Tehran vows to retaliate if Israel and the West attack nuclear plants

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Iran ratcheted up tensions in the Middle East yesterday when its foreign minister declared the country was ‘ready for war’ with Israel and the West. In inflammatory remarks certain to fuel uncertainty in the volatile region, Ali Akbar Salehi warned that Tehran would ‘not hesitate’ to retaliate if attacked. His posturing came as Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Israel’s defence minister not to fan the flames during top-level talks in London.

Iran has come sharply back into focus following the end of the Libya conflict. Mr Hague made it ‘very clear’ to Ehud Barak – who reportedly favours a pre-emptive strike against the rogue Islamic state – to pursue a diplomatic solution. Iran’s hardliners, led by president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have been increasingly aggressive in recent weeks sparking fears that the belligerent regime is close to producing a nuclear bomb. Israel reacted on Wednesday by test-firing a new long-range missile. Downing Street has also been warned that Iran is concealing technology to enrich uranium – used in atomic weapons – in a mountain base beneath the city of Qom to protect it from air strikes.

Britain is now developing plans for military action against Iran amid mounting alarm about the nuclear threat from Ahmadinejad, who has vowed to ‘wipe Israel off the face of the earth’. Submarines armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Royal Navy warships could be deployed within range of Iran and RAF planes could carry out reconnaissance, surveillance and air-to-air refuelling. Diplomats in Whitehall are keen to rein in Iran using a diplomatic solution but admit that ‘all options should be kept on the table’.

However, the UK would take part only if the U.S. launched an attack.

Barack Obama is unlikely to strike before seeking re-election in a year, but the president is aware that action is needed before Iran acquires a nuclear bomb. Last night, Mr Salehi, Iran’s foreign minister, said the regime was ‘ready for war’ while on a visit to Libya. He said: ‘We have been hearing threats from Israel for eight years. Our nation is a united nation. Such threats are not new to us. 'We are very sure of ourselves. We can defend our country.’ He warned of retaliation a day after Iran’s chief of staff said Israel and the West would be ‘punished’ for any attack on its nuclear sites.

General Hassan Firouzabadi said: ‘We take every threat, however distant and improbable, as very real, and are fully prepared to use suitable equipment to punish any kind of mistake. ‘The United States is fully aware that a military attack by the Zionist regime on Iran will not only cause tremendous damage to that regime, but it will also inflict serious damage to the U.S.’ Iran insists it has a nuclear programme only to produce energy. But a report by the International Atomic Energy Association, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, to be published next week, will conclude that Iran is attempting to produce nuclear weapons in defiance of UN sanctions. Yesterday Mr Hague said it was vital to continue tackling ‘shared concerns such as ... the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear programme’.

Jim Murphy, Labour defence spokesman, said: ‘Iran’s efforts to acquire and weaponise nuclear capabilities are well known. 'The international community has a responsibility to prevent this from happening through a combination of economic sanctions and diplomatic efforts. ‘Should the Government be thinking of going beyond that, this would be a very serious development indeed.’ Meanwhile, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered a probe into alleged leaks of plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Ministers in Tel Aviv believe that domestic opponents who authorised the leaks were undermining the government and ‘gambling with Israel’s national interest’.

In other developments, Mr Hague accused Israel of undermining peace efforts by accelerating settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He condemned the decision to build at least 2,000 apartments in Jewish-held areas in retaliation for Palestinian efforts to secure recognition as a state at the United Nations. Speaking after yesterday’s talks, Mr Hague insisted the UK remained ‘fully committed to Israel’s security’. But he said: ‘I urged Israel to revoke the plan for new settlements and to avoid further provocative steps which only make more difficult the attempt to facilitate a return to talks.

'These steps undermine efforts to achieve peace, and increase Israel’s isolation.’ 'The U.S. has unfortunately lost its wisdom and prudence in dealing with international issues. It only depends on power,' he said on a visit to the Libyan city of Benghazi. 'Of course we are prepared for the worst, but we hope they think twice before they put themselves on a collision course with Iran.' In an interview published in Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Mr Salehi had said that 'Iran was always ready for war'.

Work to develop nuclear facilities began in the 1990s, with the Russian Federation providing experts, although the U.S. blocked the trade of equipment or construction of technology for Iran. International attention was drawn to its developing nuclear potential in 2002 after an Iranian dissident revealed the existence of two sites that were under construction - a uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sought access to these facilities, but it wasn't until 2003 that Iran agreed to cooperate with it and suspend enrichment activities. The investigation revealed Iran had failed to meet several obligations, including divulging the importation of uranium from China. The following year, work began on the construction of a heavy water reactor, but again Iran announced a suspension of uranium enrichment under the terms of the Paris Agreement.

After Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election as president in August 2005, Iran removed the seals on its enrichment equipment and effectively rejected the Paris Agreement. President Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully enriched uranium in a televised address in 2006, where he announced the country had joined those with nuclear technology.

Then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had urged the UN Security Council to consider 'strong steps' to force Tehran to shelve its nuclear ambitions. Subsequently the UN Security Council has passed seven resolutions on Iran insisting it ends its enrichment activities. These have included freezing the assets of people and organisations linked to its nuclear and missile programmes.Three nuclear scientists working on the programme have been killed in the last two years and a computer virus also affected enrichment at the Natanz plant in 2010.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2057210/Iran-ready-war-Tehran-retaliate-Israel-West-attack-nuclear-plants.html?ito=feeds-newsxml#

Russia, China Warn US Against Attacking Iran

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Faced with a round of threats and speculations of an impending war so shrill that it has sent oil prices soaring, Russia and China were quick today to caution the United States against launching an attack on Iran. Attacking Iran would be a “very serious mistake fraught with unpredictable consequences,” warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while China expressed concern that the threats were harming the prospects of diplomacy. They are just the latest in a growing chorus of nations to express concerns about starting another major war. Germany has also said they oppose such a move. A growing number of US officials past and present have expressed a preference for launching a military attack on Iran soon, with an IAEA report alleging some vague allegations about computer simulations serving as the latest pretext. Israeli officials have also been hyping the prospect of launching an attack on Iran themselves, with President Shimon Peres insisted the war was “more likely” than any sort of diplomatic solution. Israeli military officials are said to prefer an attack before winter.

Source: http://news.antiwar.com/2011/11/07/russia-china-warn-us-against-attacking-iran/

U.S. to Build Up Military in Australia

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President Barack Obama will announce an accord for a new and permanent U.S. military presence in Australia when he visits next week, a step aimed at countering China's influence and reasserting U.S. interest in the region, said people familiar with his plans. The agreement will lead to an increase in U.S. naval operations off the coast of Australia and give American troops and ships "permanent and constant" access to Australian facilities, the people said. While no new American bases will be built under the plan, the arrangement will allow U.S. forces to place equipment in Australia and set up more joint exercises, they said.

The move could help the U.S. military, now concentrated in Japan and South Korea in Northeast Asia, to spread its influence west and south across the region, including the strategically and economically important South China Sea, which China considers as its sovereign territory. It was unclear how much the new presence would cost the Pentagon, which is facing years and hundreds of billion dollars in spending cuts.

But the expanded military presence is designed as a demonstration of U.S. commitment to the region, part of an effort to refocus on Asia as the U.S. withdraws from Iraq and draws its forces down in Afghanistan, officials in both countries said. "It will demonstrate U.S. resolve, not just for Australia, but in the region," Maj. Gen. Tim McOwan, the Australian defense attaché in Washington, said in an interview this week. At a daily press briefing on Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Chinese officials "hope relevant countries' bilateral cooperation will be conducive to the Asia-Pacific region's security, peace and stability."

The strategy comes weeks after China sent its first its first aircraft carrier to sea, a defining moment in its effort to become a top-tier naval power that seeks to challenge U.S. military supremacy in Asia and protect Chinese economic interests that now span the globe. Several Asian nations, fearful of the threat China poses, also are beefing up their arsenals, fearing that the U.S. security umbrella is being eroded by China's enhanced capabilities and possible U.S. defense cuts. One base slated for the stepped-up American presence is in Darwin, on the country's north coast. Other locations are possible, including one near Perth, on the west coast, one person said.

"Strategically, we want to be able to reassure the rest of Asia that the American presence is still strong in the 21st century as China develops its force," said Ernie Bower, director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

Officials declined to detail how many new troops or sailors would be part of the U.S. effort, or how many ships would be stationed in the area, ahead of Mr. Obama's announcement next week. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, while traveling throughout the region last month, vowed an expansion in U.S. influence, but also declined to specify costs or force sizes. An administration official said the stepped-up presence will be phased in over several years under the agreement. The deal isn't yet final and details could change.

On his trip, Mr. Obama will mark the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Australian alliance with a speech to Parliament and a visit to a military base in Darwin, where he and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard will jointly address Australian troops. Neither leader is expected to characterize the move as directly confronting the Chinese. But U.S. officials said one of the goals of Mr. Obama's Asia trip is to clarify free access to the South China Sea. Mr. Panetta, after a meeting with the Australians in September, said that enhanced military cooperation would counter "threats and challenges" to come. "Security and prosperity of our two great nations depends on the security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region," he said.

The full range of U.S. naval ships is expected to rotate through the joint facilities, stopping for exercises as well as repairs and other shore work. Naval aircraft also will have access to a base in Darwin. The increased U.S. presence will be a rotating force, one person said. In September, Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the enhance cooperation would be "more ships in, ships out; more planes in, planes out; more troops in, troops out."

Gen. McOwan, the defense attaché, said the increase in U.S. naval operations will send a message to the Chinese that the U.S. is committed to defending the security of regional sea and air trade routes. The stepped-up American presence will reassure Australia and well as other countries in the region that the U.S. is engaged at a time when Chinese intentions are uncertain, he said. Still, Gen. McOwan added that the American commitments Mr. Obama plans to announce are "not going to frighten the Chinese."

"It's more symbolic than real," he said.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203537304577028490161890480.html

Afghanistan is a Proxy War Between India and Pakistan

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When Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai visited New Delhi earlier last month to sign a strategic partnership deal, he quickly reassured Islamabad it remained Kabul's most important partner. "Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend. The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother," he explained. India and Afghanistan's problem is that Pakistan doesn't agree. It sees India's involvement in Afghanistan as a threat to its 'strategic depth', a concept in which Afghanistan is acknowledged as Pakistan's backyard in which India has no right to hang out with its great friend.

The fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 allowed India to expand its influence in Afghanistan dramatically. Its engineers and IT specialists poured in as part of its most ambitious aid package – worth more than $1.5 billion – to build remote mountain roads, establish telephone, internet, and satellite links and reopen schools and hospitals. Washington encouraged India's involvement and believed it could use the soft power of its popular Bollywood film industry and other cultural links to encourage tolerance and pluralism in the country.

For India, which had been frozen out under the Taliban regime as a supporter of the Northern Alliance's warlords, Afghanistan holds the keys to the Central Asian mineral and energy reserves it needs to sustain its rapid economic growth. To that end, and to increase its chances of gaining access to Afghanistan's own rich reserves of iron ore, India has pledged another half a billion dollars in aid.

Afghanistan is keen to encourage India in this: it doesn't want Pakistan to be its sole customs guard or jailer, and it has seen how vindictive its twin can be. When India's Kabul embassy was blown up by a suicide bomber in 2008, killing 41, including India's defence attaché, American officials said they had evidence that members of Pakistan's ISI intelligence service had been involved in the plot. Just over a year later they struck again, killing 17.

A few months later Pakistani officials successfully lobbied for India to be excluded from last year's Afghanistan conference in Istanbul and for its need for 'strategic depth' to be reflected in any peace settlement for the country. The message for India was that it could only operate successfully in Afghanistan with Pakistan's tacit approval. This message has been received loud and clear by the major Indian companies bidding to mine Afghanistan's deep mineral reserves: Should they invest heavily in rail or oil pipeline projects when their security cannot be protected from attacks by Taliban factions close to Pakistan?

So while India and Iran discuss opening a new Afghan 'silk route' which bypasses Pakistan's tightly-controlled Wagah border with India, fear of Islamabad's militant friends could still jeopardise this latest rail project and other badly needed developments. Afghanistan is not just the front line in Nato's fight against the Taliban, but also a proxy war between India and Pakistan. Until relations really improve between the nuclear neighbours, Afghanistan will remain another of their battlegrounds – and no safe place for serious investors.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8863073/Afghanistan-is-a-proxy-war-between-India-and-Pakistan.htm

Karzai says he would side with Pakistan in a war against America

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America has been angered after Afghanistan's leader declared his country would back Pakistan if war ever broke out. President Hamid Karzai said on Pakistani TV his country would stand with its neighbour whoever attacked it - even the U.S. 'If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan,' Karzai said. 'If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.' He said his country was indebted to Pakistan for taking in millions of Afghan refugees over the years and stressed that Kabul would not allow any nation - be it the U.S., India, Russia, China or anyone else - to dictate its policies. 'Anybody that attacks Pakistan, Afghanistan will stand with Pakistan,' he said. 'Afghanistan will never betray its brother.'

Both Washington and Kabul have repeatedly said Pakistan is providing sanctuary to terrorist groups launching attacks in Afghanistan. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Pakistan last week leading a high level delegation of U.S. officials including CIA director David Petraeus. She flew to Pakistan after her Kabul visit with the blunt message that if Islamabad is unwilling or unable to take the fight to the al-Qaida and Taliban-linked Haqqani network operating from its western border with Afghanistan, the U.S. 'would show' Pakistan how to eliminate that militant group's safe havens.

Today, a spokesman for the US embassy in Kabul, Gavin Sundwall, said: 'This is not about war with each other. 'This is about a joint approach to a threat to all three of our countries: insurgents and terrorists who attack Afghans, Pakistanis and Americans.' Mr Karzai needs Pakistani help to bring the Taliban to peace talks. In the event of a conflict, his army, which is dependent on the US, would be in no position to back Pakistan.

Russian Diplomat Criticized For Speech At Serbian Opposition Rally

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The Serbian ruling party has criticized a speech by the Russian ambassador to Belgrade at a nationalist party rally as meddling by Moscow in Serbia's internal affairs, RFE/RL's Balkan Service reports. Six weeks after he blasted Serbian politicians and intellectuals at a Belgrade security forum for leaving it to Russia to defend Serbian interests abroad, Russian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandr Konuzin praised the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) at a rally in Belgrade on October 29.

He told the rally that the SNS -- despite being founded just three years ago -- is the strongest rival to the Democratic Party ahead of general elections slated for mid-2012. He also said it was "one of the main indicators of the mood of Serbian citizens." But Jelena Trivan, a spokeswoman for Serbian President Boris Tadic's ruling Democratic Party, told RFE/RL on November 1 that Konuzin overstepped his diplomatic mandate. She said, however, that his act cannot be compared to appearances by foreign guests, such as Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who showed up at her party's campaign events two years ago.

"I ironically say that Mr. Konuzin feels so much at home that he forgot that this country is his host and he is the guest," Trivan said.

Konuzin enjoys widespread support among ultranationalist groups in Serbia. Posters with his picture and the slogan "Konuzin for President" were put up several weeks ago in Belgrade. The SNS is a relatively moderate offshoot of the ultranationalist Radical Party, whose long-standing leader Vojislav Seselj is on trial for war crimes at the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The SNS does not oppose European integration but places the fight for Kosovo and defense of Serbs living in other countries at the top of its priorities.

Rather than illustrating a rift over Belgrade's strong European integration ambitions -- which Moscow does not view fondly -- for some Serbian analysts the episode with Konuzin highlights the leverage Russia has over Serbia. Russia has been Serbia's staunchest ally in recent years in its fight to reverse the independence of the former Serbian province of Kosovo. The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed its full support for Konuzin, saying his participation at the rally was "normal diplomatic practice."

But Gennady Sisoyev, a foreign policy commentator for the Russian daily "Kommersant," says Konuzin's actions violate Russian diplomatic protocol. "I am not aware of any other case where a Russian ambassador anywhere takes part and speaks at preelection rallies of parties fighting for power," Sisoyev says. "Not only Serbia, but no other country would tolerate this." Nenad Canak, leader of a tiny regional civic party that backs Tadic's government, said Konuzin should be declared persona non grata and ordered to leave Serbia.

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/russian_diplomat_criticized_for_speech_at_serbian_opposition_rally/24379085.html

Keeping Moscow at Bay - In Kosovo

World War IV is real. It began not on September 11, 2001, but in 1978 when the Russians installed a puppet regime in Afghanistan. The Russian incursion south toward the Indian Ocean reproduced the history of more than a century before, beginning in 1875, when the tsar incited the Balkan Christians to rebel against the Ottomans. But events never repeat themselves exactly. Developments today follow the cycle between the Austrian absorption of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1908 and the Sarajevo assassination of 1914. Europe claims that, like the Habsburgs in Bosnia, it will bring progress to Kosovo, now demanding independence. Russia seeks aggrandizement. But while those are the permanent features of the political landscape, the details have been distorted to appear new.

Kosovo has dropped off the political map for most Americans, who are diverted by continuing terrorism in the core Islamic countries – exemplified by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Similarly, Western obliviousness has encouraged Turkey to attack Iraqi Kurdistan with impunity. Westerners find it difficult to perceive clearly how, while the U.S. is absorbed with the headlines in the battle against jihadists, other malign interests – Russian and Chinese imperialism no less than Turkish ultranationalism – pursue their own aims. The appetites of Moscow could again set Europe afire, beginning in Kosovo - just as war was touched off in Sarajevo. While Kosovo appears most important to Albanians and their friends, the territory’s independence is significant for another reason – as a bulwark against revived Russian designs beyond its borders.

Kosovo independence has been promised, explicitly or implicitly, by the U.S. and some European countries since 1999. There are no special “processes” required for the attainment of independence, except, when necessary, a struggle against the colonial power. Indeed, the United Nations declared in the great age of decolonization – the 1950s and 1960s – that “Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.”

Failure to secure independence for the Kosovar Albanians will have further negative consequences. First, it would be a betrayal by the U.S. of one of the few majority-Muslim communities in the world that is wholly pro-American – a threat also visible in the alienation of Kurdish affections by American hesitation to restrain Turkey in Iraq. But most importantly, it will encourage Serbian adventurism, as well as similar attitudes elsewhere – beginning in Turkey and Russia, but opening a road without a predictable end, except probable disaster. While Western media and pseudo-experts prattle about the dangers of “separatism” in Europe, the real menace comes from the arrogance of the established powers, not from the oppressed small nations.

Giant Russia has always backed nearby Serbia against the Albanians, except briefly during the Tito era, while the few million Albanians have real friends only in distant America. The balance is hardly as even as it should be. When I went to Kosovo in mid-December – expecting a declaration of independence at that time – Kosovars were still trusting and enthusiastic about America, but consumed with rage at the obstruction of Russia and the endless delays proposed by the Europeans.

Russian imperialism has been the bulwark of obscurantism and collective hatred in Europe since the 18th century, and the division of Poland beginning in 1772. The regime of Vladimir Putin has revived the strategy of encroachment and belligerence pursued by his predecessors. Few of us who fought for and celebrated the defeat of Soviet Communism imagined that it would be succeeded by mafia capitalism, and then by a neo-tsarism that exploits its speculative prosperity to demand submission from its neighbors. In accord with this legacy, Putin and his cohort have repeatedly stated bluntly that the Kosovo question must be deferred to the United Nations Security Council, where Moscow will veto independence. The anticolonial principles that the Russians claimed to support in 1960, when the issue was that of the Congolese versus the Belgians, are elided now that Moscow wishes to reincorporate Ukraine and China continues to exercise a cruel domination over Tibet.

Kosovo has gained the renewed, if vague, attention of the Western press, which unfailingly covers the bid for statehood in two ways, both mendacious. The first turns victims of a 20th century attempted genocide into the victimizers. Thus the British dailies tearfully elicit sympathy for Kosovo Serbs who allegedly face “ethnic cleansing” from their supposed “cultural cradle.” The second way reduces the issue to irrelevance, treating the Kosovars as yet another quixotic separatist movement in which the arguments of “both sides” merit equal attention. The Kosovar Albanian viewpoint – the land was theirs centuries before the Slavic invasions 1,500 years ago – is seldom heard or read in the Western media.

Srebrenica – the site of the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys by Serbian terrorists – is the most prominent recent symbol of Moscow-backed genocidal aggression in Europe. While Boris Yeltsin, then the titular leader of post-Soviet Russia, pursued inconsistent policies on the issues created by Russia’s imperial history, powerful interests in the former USSR backed Serbian and other terrorist crimes against whole communities. Throughout the Bosnian conflict, Russian nationalist media and politicians supported Serb claims, and Russian volunteers served alongside Serbs in committing bloody atrocities in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosovo. I argued in my 2002 book The Two Faces of Islam that a Muscovite strategy of Slav-Orthodox assault on vulnerable Muslims had been visible not merely in Afghanistan, but in Europe, too. Communists expelled Bulgaria’s Turkish minority and “nationalized” domestic Bulgarian Muslims in the 1980s.

Armenia also assaulted Azerbaijan, and Russia’s devastation of Chechnya began as the Soviet Union collapsed. In other words, the wars against the Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians came after many warnings, for those capable of understanding them. Kosovo has a Srebrenica, which is much less well-known. It is called Korenica and is located in the western section of Kosovo, near the city of Gjakova. In Korenica, on April 27, 1999 – a month after the commencement of the NATO bombing of Serbia – nearly 400 Albanians were wantonly murdered by Serbian irregulars. But Korenica is significant for more than its having seen the largest number of Albanian victims in a single Serbian assault during the 1998-99 conflict.

While Serbs and their apologists portray their role in the long battle for Kosovo as a defense against a jihadist offensive by Albanian Muslims hateful of Slav Christians, their churches, and their sacred heritage, the majority of the Albanians killed at Korenica were Catholics. The aim of the Serbs, like that of their Russian protectors, has always been to promote the dominance of the Orthodox Christian identity over all the peoples that follow religious traditions different from it. I first learned of the crime of Korenica only months after it took place, during a visit to Gjakova. I found out about the killings accidentally, when I drove along a rural road and found a Sufi turbe or mausoleum. Inside the structure, I was shocked to discover the coffins of 24 infants. It was then that I learned about the Korenica slayings, and was taken to a graveyard that included many wooden markers with the initials “N.N.” for an unidentified corpse. I believe I was among the first foreigners, aside from some human rights monitors, to thoroughly research the Korenica incident, and in the years that followed I continued an extensive inquiry into it.

First, in 1999, I interviewed a brave Albanian Catholic priest from Gjakova, Pater Ambroz Ukaj, who had defied Serbian officers to learn what had transpired in Korenica. Later I learned that a Sufi, Shaykh Rama of Gjakova, had been killed at Korenica. In recent years, the Center for Islamic Pluralism, of which I am Executive Director, has supported reconstruction of a primary school in the Korenica district, the Pjetër Mugy School in the hamlet of Guska, that educates both Catholic and Muslim children

Europe seems not to understand that in refusing to repudiate Serbian and Russian blandishments, and in failing to assist the Kosovar Albanians consequentially, it is committing a slow suicide. Spain is afraid of demands for rights by the Basques and Catalans; Slovakia and Romania have a bad conscience about their treatment of their large Hungarian minorities, which possess capacity for resistance unknown among the Roma, those other martyrs to Slovak and Romanian nationalism. Cyprus should probably not have been admitted to the EU without the participation of its Turkish-minority northern zone (a topic so convoluted as to require a separate article.)

But rather than deal with stateless nations and minorities fairly, resolve its fear of Turkish Islam, and recognize the unquenchable desire of the Kosovar Albanians for freedom, Europe may blindly submit to the return of Russian power, enriched by energy and bent on reestablishing a bipolar world in which only the U.S. and Moscow count. The U.S. still counts, more than either the hallucinated Serbian and Russian leadership or the Europeans – the latter with a disgraceful record of preferring peace to freedom. America must support Kosovar independence, without dishonorable concessions to Belgrade or Moscow, and without delay.

Source: http://pajamasmedia.com/2008/01/keep...y_in_kosov.php

U.S. could threaten Russian strategic nuclear forces - Foreign Minister Lavrov

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The United States continues to refuse to guarantee that the European missile defense shield will not be directed at Russia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday. "They don't want to give us a guarantee that the U.S.-NATO [European] missile defense shield will not be directed at Russia," Lavrov said during an address to students and professors at the Moscow State University for International Relations.

Lavrov said that in July 2009, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed on joint efforts in establishing an anti-missile defense system by first starting with a general analysis of challenges and threats. "We added concrete proposals to the parameters for such a system and there were long consultations through bilateral talks and within the Russia-NATO Council. Unfortunately, we have not come to an agreement; however, a European missile defense shield is currently being created according to the parameters that Washington has defined and could create a threat to Russia's strategic nuclear forces," Lavrov said.

"Military experts understand completely that the unlimited expansion by one party's anti-missile defense capabilities requires the other party to take equal actions in order to protect its strategic restraint potential," he added. Russia needs assurance that no military action would be directed at any other country in the Euro-Atlantic zone, he said, adding "otherwise we will return to the ideological stereotypes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and that would be a big mistake in the light of the global challenges threatening all the members of the global society."

In June, Russia's envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said the United States was already deploying its missile defense system in Europe without waiting for an agreement with Russia. Romania announced in June that it had reached an agreement with the United States to deploy a U.S. missile interceptor system at a disused Soviet airbase on its territory. "We have seen once again that the United States plans to unfold its system de facto without waiting for the end of [missile defense] talks with Russia, as the situation with the treaty with Romania shows," Rogozin said.

Russia and NATO agreed to cooperate on the so-called European missile defense system at the Lisbon summit in November 2010. NATO insists there should be two independent systems that exchange information, while Russia favors a joint system with full-scale interoperability.

Source: http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20110901/166347758.html

Georgia on Mr. Putin’s mind

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ANYONE WHO was wondering whether Vladi­mir Putin is softening as he prepares to retake the Russian presidency would do well to review the Kremlin boss’s performance at a business forum in Moscow Thursday. Asked whether Russia was likely to join the World Trade Organization in the next several months — as both his trade minister and the Obama administration predicted after talks in Washington last Monday — Mr. Putin responded by claiming that Western governments seek to “hide behind the Georgian issue” in order to block Moscow’s accession. This cynical and patently false charge is worth deconstructing for what it reveals about Russia’s likely course during the next phase of Putinism, which, if the strongman has his way, will last a dozen years.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic in the Caucasus, whose sovereignty, liberal democracy and alliance with the United States are regarded as intolerable by the Kremlin, is a WTO member and thus must consent before Russia is admitted to the organization. The problem is that in addition to banning most Georgian imports, Russia has occupied two of its provinces since a 2008 invasion; Moscow has tried — with a spectacular lack of success — to have the enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognized as independent states.

Accepting that it cannot use the WTO accession process to reverse this reality but not wishing to ratify its loss of the provinces, Georgia has proposed that Russia accept international customs monitors along their borders. We’re told the government can accept proposals by Swiss mediators under which the monitoring would be conducted in part electronically. Russia, however, has rejected any monitoring of its exports to the two provinces and says it won’t sign any deal that would be part of its WTO accession.

The cynicism of Mr. Putin’s statement lies in the fact that — as he well knows — the Obama administration has made Russia’s WTO membership a prime objective, with the president devoting himself to it personally. Mr. Putin, on the other hand, is ambivalent; as he said Thursday, “we see pluses and minuses to possibly joining the WTO.” That means he can use the issue for his own purposes. Having accused Washington of employing Georgia to block progress, Mr. Putin added: “If they really want us to be part of the WTO, they can make things happen overnight.” In other words, he expects Mr. Obama to strong-arm the Georgian government, forcing it to agree to Russia’s terms.

Administration officials tell us this will not happen. Among other factors, the White House needs help from Georgia’s many friends in Congress to pass legislation in connection with Russia’s WTO membership. But Mr. Putin could win either way: If Georgia is not steamrolled, it can be blamed for Russia’s failure to join a trade regime that might interfere with the Kremlin’s corruption networks. Welcome back, Mr. Putin: You haven’t changed a bit.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/georgia-on-mr-putins-mind/2011/10/07/gIQAY5daYL_story.html

Vladimir Putin and the South Caucasus

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Russia’s neighbors are asking what the heralded return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin means for their own regions. One such region is the South Caucasus. Caucasian leaders’ calculations will certainly change in the wake of the Putin move. In Armenia, news of his return will have gladdened Robert Kocharian, another ex-president who has been lurking in the shadows. There are obvious parallels between the two: both men gave up the position of president in 2008 after serving two terms and handed over power to a trusted successor. Kocharian is, like Putin, a man of action with a tough, uncompromising personality. And he may see the return of his former ally as a chance to relaunch his own public career.

There are important differences, however. Unlike Dmitry Medvedev, current Armenian president Serzh Sarkisian (whose term expires in early 2013) is the equal of his predecessor. Indeed, the two men were partners for thirty years; when they began their political careers in the early 1980s, in the Komsomol (Young Communist Party organization) of the town of Stepanakert, Sarkisian was the senior partner and Kocharian was his junior.

More crucially, Putin is genuinely popular in Russia—if the country had an authentically competitive election and not just a choreographed coronation, he would probably win it. Kocharian, by contrast, is extremely unpopular with much of the Armenian public, and he would encounter strong public opposition if he initiated a comeback. Serzh Sarkisian will know that—and may indeed win some covert support from opposition figures, who prefer to see him in office over Kocharian.

In Azerbaijan, President Ilham Aliev will not be cracking open the champagne. He and Putin got off to a fairly good working relationship, but it deteriorated in 2006 when Aliev refused to cooperate with Putin’s plans to deprive Georgia of cheap gas. Aliev struck up a better relationship with Medvedev, who signed a grandiose declaration of Azerbaijani-Russian partnership and friendship in Baku in July 2008, a month before Georgia and Russia went to war.

When it comes to the biggest issue in the South Caucasus, the smoldering Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorny Karabakh, we can expect far less engagement from Putin than from Medvedev. Putin was reportedly infuriated on the one occasion he genuinely tried to mediate between the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in September 2004 in Astana. The two men kept him waiting, then quarreled with each other in his presence. Putin does not like being treated that way—unlike Medvedev, who had the stamina to convene nine meetings between Aliev and Sarkisian.

In February 2007, at one of Putin’s marathon Kremlin press conferences, an Azerbaijani journalist asked a question about the Karabakh conflict. The answer reveals all one needs to know about Putin’s views on the issue. The Russian leader began sensibly, telling the Azerbaijani that Russia would not impose a solution, “You [Armenians and Azerbaijanis] shouldn’t shift this problem onto us. It’s you who have to find an acceptable way out of this situation.” But Putin didn’t stop there. He went on to muse aloud how drinkable the Soviet-era cheap alcoholic drink Agdam portvein had been and said the Armenians and Azerbaijanis should restore the town (now under Armenian control and in ruins) and resume alcoholic production. He gave the impression that this conflict was a far-away problem unworthy of much concern and which he associated with a student-era cheap tipple.

In Georgia, the reality is stark. Putin and Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili deeply loathe each other. Putin told French president Nicolas Sarkozy that he wanted to see his Georgian adversary hung by the testicles. Saakashvili’s joke about the smaller man being “Liliputin” got back to Moscow. They went to war once, and their animosity should guarantee that Georgian-Russian relations will go from bad to very bad next year as Putin returns. In the mean time, Georgia is still, using its veto power to block Russia’s World Trade Organization accession until it gets concessions over monitoring of the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We can only hope that a deal is done before Putin returns.

None of this is very promising. But any predictions on the Putin comeback are inevitably incomplete. After all, Putin is a pragmatist who will be dealing with a different and probably weaker Russia—certainly a Russia in a very different economic and political circumstance from 2008. Hence, it’s possible that Putin could use his authority to be the Charles de Gaulle of the Caucasus, promising his small southern neighbors a big strategic reconciliation on the part of Russia. Possible, but not probable.

Source: http://nationalinterest.org/commentary/vladimir-putin-the-south-caucasus-5972

What Does 'Confederation' Mean In The South Caucasus?

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On July 18, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, in Batumi and mentioned the idea of a “confederation” between the two countries. The phrase quickly got people wondering what exactly the president had in mind. Analysts have been raising questions and offering ideas ever since.

Journalists and political commentators from the countries of the South Caucasus have examined the idea (whether they endorse it or not) in the context of confrontational geopolitics. In August, Russia and Armenia agreed to extend the pact on the presence of Russian military bases in Armenia until 2044. At the same time, they expanded the format of bilateral military cooperation: henceforth Russia is obliged to defend Armenia from any external threat, which Yerevan expects primarily from Azerbaijan. In short, Armenia has become an even closer Russian ally than it was previously.

The discussion of a possible Georgia-Azerbaijan confederation was immediately placed in the traditional context of the “vertical” axis of Russia-Armenia (and, possibly, Iran) and the “horizontal” axis of Georgia and Azerbaijan (and, possibly, Turkey). And they don’t forget overseas allies, asserting that, of course, the idea of a confederation comes from Washington and is aimed at containing Russia. In a nutshell, after the failed Turkish-Armenian rapprochement, everything has come back to its place: we loved to talk about all these things back in the 1990s. But what concrete political and legal steps would be necessary to realize this “confederation” project? I haven’t heard anything specific about this yet.

First, let’s take a look at exactly what Saakashvili said, some two months ago. “A few years back I said that we must form confederative relations,” Saakashvili said. “In fact, relations between our countries are far beyond the relations that two countries ordinarily have. We are a continuation of one another.” In short, the Georgia-Azerbaijan confederation, according to the president, is not a project for the future, but a description of the present. That is, the term shouldn’t be viewed in strictly legalistic terms, but as a rhetorical figure of speech that signifies “particularly close relations between countries.”

What’s more, people in the president’s entourage insist that the same could be said of Georgia-Armenia relations: there as well, the level of closeness is very high. Of course, the Armenian side welcomes the use of this term (even rhetorically) considerably less. To be sure, it would be hypocritical to speak about an equivalence between Georgia-Azerbaijan and Georgia-Armenia relations. Under the circumstances of the cold war with Russia, Georgia can’t be pleased by the intensification of Russia-Armenia military cooperation. There’s no getting around that.

Enemies And Friends

Nonetheless, neither Georgia nor Armenia would benefit from drawing strict geopolitical conclusions from the two clear facts that Russia and Georgia are enemies, while Russia and Armenia are allies. Likewise, Russia and Azerbaijan do not intend to become enemies just because Azerbaijan and Armenia are enemies and Armenia and Russia are allies. The geopolitical formula that the “friend of my enemy is my enemy” does not apply in the Caucasus today. And thank God.

Since the August 2008 war with Russia, Georgia has placed more significance on regional relations and has actively sought to intensify ties with all the countries of the region without regard for their relations with one another. There is an element of competition with Russia in this. Russia’s policy of not recognizing the Saakashvili government is an effort to isolate Georgia internationally. Moscow wants not only to undermine Tbilisi’s support in the West, but also to exclude Georgia from regional connections.

Saakashvili is taking countermeasures, so far generally with success. Of course, one can always argue about what “success” means, but under the present circumstances Georgia views any sign of warming relations with the countries of the region as a success - and, at the same time, as a failure for Russia.

Russia is actively working to draw Azerbaijan into its sphere of influence with various economic projects. While Turkey and Armenia were flirting under Western patronage and Azerbaijan felt forgotten and rejected by its closest friends -- Ankara and Washington -- it seemed that some sort of geopolitical shift was possible. But the accelerated construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad and new steps toward realizing the Nabucco pipeline project show that the Georgia-Azerbaijan-Turkey axis of cooperation is still functioning. It is such projects most of all that are the real content of the rhetorical term “confederation.”

But, on the other hand, the opening in March of the Russia-Georgia border crossing at Verkhny Lars is not a sign of the warming of Russian-Georgian relations (as Western experts want to believe). It is an expression of Armenia-Georgia cooperation, since that road is needed most of all by Armenia. What difference does it make whether such a friendship is or is not called a "confederation?"

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/What_Does_Confederation_Mean_In_The_South_Caucasus/2160662.html

Global Warfare: Targeting Iran: Preparing for World War III

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The military deployment of US-NATO forces is occurring in several regions of the World simultaneously.

Militarization at the global level is instrumented through the US military's Unified Command structure: the entire planet is divided up into geographic Combatant Commands under the control of the Pentagon. According to (former) NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consists of a sequence of war theaters: “[The] five-year campaign plan [includes]... a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”

The Pentagon’s global military design is one of world conquest. A War on Iran has been on the drawing board of The Pentagon since 2004. Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme is the pretext and the justification. Tehran is also identified as a "State sponsor of terrorism", for allegedly supporting the Al Qaeda network.In recent developments, what is unfolding is an integrated attack plan on Iran led by the US, with the participation of the United Kingdom and Israel. While the media has presented Israeli and British military planning pertaining to Iran as separate initiatives, what we are dealing with is an integrated and coordinated US led military endeavor. In early November, Israel confirmed that it is preparing to launch air attacks against Iran's nuclear facilities, without however acknowledging that this would be carried out as part of a US led initative:

Reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently sought to drum up cabinet support for a military strike against the nuclear sites of the Islamic republic of Iran. In joint efforts with the defense minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu has succeeded in wringing support for such a reckless act from the skeptics who were already opposed to launching an attack on Iran. Among those he managed to convince was Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.There are still those in the Israeli cabinet who are against such a move including Interior Minister Eli Yishai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor, Strategic Affairs Minister and Netanyahu confidant Moshe Yaalon, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, army chief Benny Gantz, the head of Israel's intelligence agency Tamir Pardo, the chief of military intelligence Aviv Kochavi and the head of Israel's domestic intelligence agency Yoram Cohen. However, the support voiced by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is considered an ace in the hole for Netanyahu who also enjoys the full-throated support of Washington. In a show of military prowess and obvious brinkmanship, Israel test-fired a nuke capable missile on Wednesday which cannot be taken as a coincidence considering the threat made by Netanyahu. ( Ismail Salami. An Israel Attack on Iran: Military Suicide , Global Research, November 3, 2011)

Meanwhile, the British government has also signified that it will participate in a US led attack on Iran:

The Ministry of Defence believes the US may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities. British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission, despite some deep reservations within the coalition government. In anticipation of a potential attack, British military planners are examining where best to deploy Royal Navy ships and submarines equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles over the coming months as part of what would be an air and sea campaign. They also believe the US would ask permission to launch attacks from Diego Garcia, the British Indian ocean territory, which the Americans have used previously for conflicts in the Middle East. (The Guardian, November 2, 2011 http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27439)

The War on Syria

There is a military roadmap characterised by a sequence of US-NATO war theaters. In the wake of the war on Libya, there are also war plans directed against under NATO's Responsibility to Protect (R2P). These plans are integrated with those pertaining to Iran. The road to Tehran goes through Damascus. A US-NATO sponsored war on Iran would involve, as a first step, a destabilization campaign ("regime change") including covert intelligence operations in support of rebel forces directed against the Syrian government

The World is at dangerous crossroads.

Were a US-NATO military operation to be launched against either Syria or Iran, the broader Middle East Central Asian region extending from North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border with China would be engulfed in the turmoil of an extended regional war. There are at present four distinct war theaters: Afghanistan-Pakistan, Iraq, Palestine and Libya. An attack on Syria would lead to the integration of these separate war theaters, eventually leading towards a broader Middle East-Central Asian war. In turn, a war on Syria would evolve towards a US-NATO military campaign directed against Iran, in which Turkey and Israel would be directly involved. It would also contribute to the ongoing destabilization of Lebanon.

Central to an understanding of war, is the media campaign which grants it legitimacy in the eyes of public opinion. A good versus evil dichotomy prevails. The perpetrators of war are presented as the victims. Public opinion is misled: “We must fight against evil in all its forms as a means to preserving the Western way of life.” Breaking the "big lie" which upholds war as a humanitarian undertaking, means breaking a criminal project of global destruction, in which the quest for profit is the overriding force. This profit-driven military agenda destroys human values and transforms people into unconscious zombies.

The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network, across the land, nationally and internationally, which challenges the structures of power and authority. People must mobilize not only against the military agenda, the authority of the state and its officials must also be challenged. This war can be prevented if people forcefully confront their governments, pressure their elected representatives, organize at the local level in towns, villages and municipalities, spread the word, inform their fellow citizens as to the implications of a nuclear war, initiate debate and discussion within the armed forces.

The objective is to forcefully reverse the tide of war, challenge the war criminals in high office and the powerful corporate lobby groups which support them. Break the American Inquisition. Undermine the US-NATO-Israel military crusade. Close down the weapons factories and the military bases. Members of the armed forces should disobey orders and refuse to participate in a criminal war. Bring home the troops.

Source: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=27446

Former Soviet States: Battleground For Global Domination

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A Europe united under the EU and especially NATO is to be strong enough to contain, isolate and increasingly confront Russia as the central component of U.S. plans for control of Eurasia and the world, but cannot be allowed to conduct an independent foreign policy, particularly in regard to Russia and the Middle East. European NATO allies are to assist Washington in preventing the emergence of "the most dangerous scenario...a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran" such as has been adumbrated since in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Four years after the publication of The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski's recommended chess move was made: The U.S. and NATO invaded Afghanistan and expanded into Central Asia where Russian, Chinese and Iranian interests converge and where the basis for their regional cooperation existed, and Western military bases were established in the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, where they remain for the indefinite future.

As the United States escalates its joint war with NATO in Afghanistan and across the Pakistani border, expands military deployments and exercises throughout Africa under the new AFRICOM, and prepares to dispatch troops to newly acquired bases in Colombia as the spearhead for further penetration of that continent, it is simultaneously targeting Eurasia and the heart of that vast land mass, the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Within months of the formal breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in December of 2001, leading American policy advisers and government officials went to work devising a strategy to insure that the fragmentation was final and irreversible. And to guarantee that the fifteen new nations emerging from the ruins of the Soviet Union would not be allied in even a loose association such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) founded in the month of the Soviet Union's dissolution.

Three of the former Soviet republics, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, never joined the CIS and in 2004 became full members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in all three cases placing the U.S.-led military bloc on Russian borders. That left eleven other former republics to be weaned from economic, political, infrastructural, transportation and defense sector integration with Russia, integration that was extensively and comprehensively developed for the seventy four years of the USSR's existence and in many cases for centuries before during the Czarist period.

A change of its socio-economic system and the splintering of the nation with the world's largest territory only affected U.S. policy toward former Soviet space insofar as it led to Washington and its allies coveting and moving on a vast expanse of Europe and Asia hitherto off limits to it. Two months after the end of the Soviet Union then U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz and his deputy in the Pentagon, Lewis Libby, authored what became known as the Defense Planning Guidance document for the years 1994–99. Some accounts attribute the authorship to Libby and Zalmay Khalilzad under Wolfowitz's tutelage.

Afghan-born Khalilzad is a fellow alumnus of Wolfowitz at the University of Chicago and worked under him in the Ronald Reagan State Department starting in 1984. From 1985-1989 he was the Reagan administration's special adviser on the proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and on the Iran-Iraq war. In the first capacity he coordinated the Mujahideen war against the government of Afghanistan waged from Pakistan along with Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Robert Gates, now U.S. Secretary of Defense. (Gates has a doctorate degree in Russian and Soviet Studies, as does his former colleague the previous U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice.)

The main recipient of U.S. arms and training within the Mujahideen coalition during those years was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose still extant armed group Hezb-e-Islami assisted in driving American troops out of Camp Keating in Afghanistan's Nuristan province this October. Hekmatyar remains in Afghanistan heading the Hezb-e-Islami and top U.S. and NATO military commander General Stanley McChrystal in his Commander's Initial Assessment of September - which called for a massive increase in American troops for the war - identified the party as one of three main insurgent forces that as many as 85,000 U.S. and thousands of NATO reinforcements will be required to fight.

The Wolfowitz-Libby-Khalilzad Defense Planning Guidance prototype appeared in the New York Times on March 7, 1992 and to demonstrate that the end of the Soviet Union and the imminent fall of the Afghan government (Hekmatyar and his allies would march into Kabul two months later) affected U.S. policy toward Russia not one jot contained these passages:

"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to general global power."

"We continue to recognize that collectively the conventional forces of the states formerly comprising the Soviet Union retain the most military potential in all of Eurasia; and we do not dismiss the risks to stability in Europe from a nationalist backlash in Russia or efforts to reincorporate into Russia the newly independent republics of Ukraine, Belarus, and possibly others....We must, however, be mindful that democratic change in Russia is not irreversible, and that despite its current travails, Russia will remain the strongest military power in Eurasia and the only power in the world with the capability of destroying the United States."

In its original and revised versions the 46-page Defense Planning Guidance document laid the foundation for what would informally become known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine and later the Bush Doctrine, indistinguishable in any essential manner from the Blair, alternately known as Clinton, Doctrine enunciated in 1999: That the U.S. (with its NATO allies) reserves the unquestioned right to employ military force anywhere in the world at any time for whichever purpose it sees fit and to effect "regime change" overthrows of any governments viewed as being insufficiently subservient to Washington and its regional and global designs.

Five years later former Carter administration National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who launched the Afghan Mujahideen support project in 1978 and worked with Khalilzad at Colombia when the latter was Assistant Professor of Political Science at the university's School of International and Public Affairs from 1979 to 1989 and Brzezinski headed the Institute on Communist Affairs, wrote an article called "A Geostrategy for Eurasia." It was in essence a precis of his book of the same year, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And It's Geostrategic Imperatives, and was published in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. The framework for the piece is contained in this paragraph:

"America's status as the world's premier power is unlikely to be contested by any single challenger for more than a generation. No state is likely to match the United States in the four key dimensions of power - military, economic, technological, and cultural - that confer global political clout. Short of American abdication, the only real alternative to American leadership is international anarchy. President Clinton is correct when he says America has become the world's 'indispensable nation.'"

Brzezinski identified the subjugation of Eurasia as Washington's chief global geopolitical objective, with the former Soviet Union as the center of that policy and NATO as the main mechanism to accomplish the strategy. "Europe is America's essential geopolitical bridgehead in Eurasia. America's stake in democratic Europe is enormous. Unlike America's links with Japan, NATO entrenches American political influence and military power on the Eurasian mainland. With the allied European nations still highly dependent on U.S. protection, any expansion of Europe's political scope is automatically an expansion of U.S. influence. Conversely, the United States' ability to project influence and power in Eurasia relies on close transatlantic ties.

"A wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve the short-term and longer-term interests of U.S. policy. A larger Europe will expand the range of American influence without simultaneously creating a Europe so politically integrated that it could challenge the United States on matters of geopolitical importance, particularly in the Middle East...."

The double emigre - first from Poland, then from Canada - advocated a diminished role for nation states, including the U.S., and Washington's collaboration in building a stronger Europe in furtherance of general Western domination of Eurasia, the Middle East, Africa and the world as a whole. "In practical terms, all this will eventually require America's accommodation to a shared leadership in NATO, greater acceptance of France's concerns over a European role in Africa and the Middle East, and continued support for the European Union's eastward expansion even as the EU becomes politically and economically more assertive....A new Europe is still taking shape, and if that Europe is to remain part of the 'Euro-Atlantic' space, the expansion of NATO is essential."

While giving lip service to the role of the European Union, he left no doubt as to which organization - the world's only military bloc - is to lead the charge in the conquest of the former Soviet Union as well as the world's "periphery." It is NATO. Already stating in 1997, two years before his native Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary would become full members of the Alliance, that "Ukraine, provided it has made significant domestic reforms and has become identified as a Central European country, should also be ready for initial negotiations with the EU and NATO," he added:

"Failure to widen NATO, now that the commitment has been made, would shatter the concept of an expanding Europe and demoralize the Central Europeans. Worse, it could reignite dormant Russian political aspirations in Central Europe. Moreover, it is far from evident that the Russian political elite shares the European desire for a strong American political and military presence in Europe....If a choice must be made between a larger Europe-Atlantic system and a better relationship with Russia, the former must rank higher."

That a former U.S. foreign policy official and citizen of the country would so blithely determine years before the event which nations would join the European Union went without comment on both sides of the Atlantic. That the nominal geographic location of a nation - placing Ukraine in Central Europe - would be assigned by an American was similarly assumed to be Washington's prerogative evidently. Despite vapid maunderings about desiring to free post-Soviet Russia from its "imperial past" and "integrating [it] into a cooperative transcontinental system," Brzezinski presented a blueprint for surrounding the nation with a NATO cordon sanitaire, in truth a wall of military fortifications.

"Russia is more likely to make a break with its imperial past if the newly independent post-Soviet states are vital and stable. Their vitality will temper any residual Russian imperial temptations. Political and economic support for the new states must be an integral part of a broader strategy....Ukraine is a critically important component of such a policy, as is support for such strategically pivotal states as Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan."

Adding Georgia and Moldova, the three states he singles out became the nucleus of the GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova) bloc originally created in the same year as Brzezinski's article and book appeared. (Uzbekistan joined in 1999 and left in 2005.) GUAM was promoted by the Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright administration as a vehicle for planned Trans-Eurasian energy projects and to tear apart the Commonwealth of Independent States by luring members apart from Russia toward the European Union, the so-called soft power preliminary stage, and NATO, the hard power culmination of the process.

In the above-quoted article Brzezinski also wrote, in addressing Turkey, that "Regular consultations with Ankara regarding the future of the Caspian Sea basin and Central Asia would foster Turkey's sense of strategic partnership with the United States. America should also support Turkish aspirations to have a pipeline from Baku, Azerbaijan, to Ceyhan on its own Mediterranean coast serve as a major outlet for the Caspian sea basin energy reserves." Eight years later, in 2005, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline transporting Caspian Sea oil to Europe came online, followed by the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipeline and the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Tbilisi-Baku railway, with the Nabucco natural gas pipeline next to be activated. The last-named is already slated to include, in addition to Caspian supplies, gas from Iraq and North Africa.

The book whose foreword Brzezinski's "A Geostrategy for Eurasia" in a way was, The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And It's Geostrategic Imperatives, laid out in greater detail plans that have been expanded upon in the interim. The volume's preface states, "It is imperative that no Eurasian challenger emerges capable of dominating Eurasia and thus of also challenging America. The formulation of a comprehensive and integrated Eurasian geostrategy is therefore the purpose of this book....Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran....Averting this contingency, however remote it may be, will require a display of US geostrategic skill on the western, eastern, and southern perimeters of Eurasia simultaneously.”

In pursuance of "America's role as the first, only, and last truly global superpower," Brzezinski noted that "the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia. For half a millennium, world affairs were dominated by Eurasian powers and peoples who fought with one another for regional domination and reached out for global power. Now a non-Eurasian power is preeminent in Eurasia - and America's global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained." The military fist inside the diplomatic glove is and will remain NATO.

"The emergence of a truly united Europe - especially if that should occur with constructive American support - will require significant changes in the structure and processes of the NATO alliance, the principal link between America and Europe. NATO provides not only the main mechanism for the exercise of US influence regarding European matters but the basis for the politically critical American military presence in Western Europe....Eurasia is thus the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played."

In a section with the heading "The NATO Imperative," the author reiterated earlier policy demands: "It follows that a wider Europe and an enlarged NATO will serve well both the short-term and the longer-term goals of US policy. A larger Europe will expand the range of American influence — and, through the admission of new Central European members, also increase in the European councils the number of states with a pro-American proclivity — without simultaneously creating a Europe politically so integrated that it could soon challenge the United States on geopolitical matters of high importance to America elsewhere, particularly in the Middle East."

A Europe united under the EU and especially NATO is to be strong enough to contain, isolate and increasingly confront Russia as the central component of U.S. plans for control of Eurasia and the world, but cannot be allowed to conduct an independent foreign policy, particularly in regard to Russia and the Middle East. European NATO allies are to assist Washington in preventing the emergence of "the most dangerous scenario...a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran" such as has been adumbrated since in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Four years after the publication of The Grand Chessboard, Brzezinski's recommended chess move was made: The U.S. and NATO invaded Afghanistan and expanded into Central Asia where Russian, Chinese and Iranian interests converge and where the basis for their regional cooperation existed, and Western military bases were established in the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, where they remain for the indefinite future. Western-controlled pipelines traverse the South Caucasus - Azerbaijan and Georgia - to drive Russia and Iran out of the European and ultimately world energy markets, with a concomitant U.S. and NATO takeover of the armed forces of both nations. The two countries have also been tapped for increased troop deployments and transport routes for the war in South Asia.

The West is completing the process described by Brzezinski in his 1997 book in which he stated "In effect, by the mid-1990s a bloc, quietly led by Ukraine and comprising Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and sometimes also Kazakhstan, Georgia and Moldova, had informally emerged to obstruct Russian efforts to use the CIS as the tool for political integration." Note, not to obstruct a new "imperial" Russia from exploiting the Commonwealth of Independent States to dominate much less absorb former parts not only of the Soviet Union but of historical Russia, but to integrate - or rather maintain the integration of - nations which were within one state until eighteen years ago. At that time, 1991, the Soviet Union precipitately disintegrated into fifteen new nations and four independent "frozen conflict" zones - Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transdniester - and Russia made a 180 degree turn in its political structure and orientation, both domestically and in its foreign policy. The response to those developments by the U.S. and its NATO cohorts was to scent blood and move in for the kill.

Starting in 1994 NATO recruited all fifteen former Soviet republics into its Partnership for Peace program, which has subsequently prepared ten nations - all in Eastern Europe, three of them former Soviet republics - for full membership. As noted above, in 1997 the West absorbed four and for a period five former Soviet states - Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Uzbekistan - into the GUAM, now Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, format, which has recently been expanded to include Armenia and Belarus with the European Union's Eastern Partnership initiative. The latter includes half (six of twelve) of the CIS and former CIS nations, all except for Russia and the five Central Asian countries. [1]

Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian and Ukrainian troops have been enlisted by the U.S. and NATO for the war in Afghanistan, with Moldova to be the next supplier of soldiers. All five nations also provided forces for the war and occupation in Iraq. The five Central Asian former Soviet republics - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - have provided the Pentagon and NATO with bases and transit rights for the war in South Asia and as such are being daily dragged deeper into the Western military nexus. Kazakhstan, for example, sent troops to Iraq and may soon deploy them to Afghanistan. In recent days the West has stepped up its offensive in several former Soviet states.

GUAM held a meeting of its Parliamentary Assembly in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on November 9 and the leader of the host nation's parliamentary majority, David Darchiashvili, said "GUAM has significant potential, as its member states have common interests while the CIS is a union of conflicting interests" and "It is important for GUAM members to have a specific attitude to the EU. GUAM has a potential to develop a common direction with the EU under the policy of the Eastern Partnership." [2] Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said at the event that "Our relations are extending, new partners appear. The US, the Czech Republic, Japan and the Baltic states will become GUAM partners soon. They will participate in economic projects with us." [3]

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Torbjorn Jagland met with GUAM member states' permanent representatives to the Council of Europe and during the meeting "the Azerbaijani side emphasized the need to intensify the Council of Europe's efforts in the settlement of 'frozen conflicts' in the GUAM area." [4] The allusion is again to Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia and Transdniester where several thousand lives were lost in fighting after the breakup of the Soviet Union and, in the case of South Ossetia, where a Georgian invasion of last year triggered a five-day war with Russia.

Later at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland from November 13-17, Azerbaijani member of parliament Zahid Oruj said that "the territories of both Georgia and Azerbaijan were occupied and the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s policy in the region proved that" and he "characterized these steps as an action against NATO." [5] The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a post-Soviet security bloc consisting of Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Belarus (initially) and Uzbekistan both boycotted the creation of the new CSTO rapid reaction force last month and the Eastern Partnership is designed in part to pull Armenia and Belarus out of the organization. Comparable initiatives are underway in regards to the four Central Asian members states, with the Afghan war the chief mechanism for reorienting them toward NATO.

During the NATO Parliamentary Assembly session, for example, a Turkish parliamentarian said "Armenia’s releasing the occupied Azerbaijani territories [Nagorno Karabakh] will create a security zone in the South Caucasus and pave the way for NATO’s cooperation with this region." An Azerbaijani counterpart was even more blunt in stating "NATO should defend Azerbaijan” and stressing "that otherwise, security will not be firm in the region, stability can be violated anytime [and a] new military conflict will be inevitable." [6] The day after the NATO session ended the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, revealed the context for NATO "defending Azerbaijan" when he announced that "There is strong support for building the national army. Our army grows stronger. We are holding negotiations but we should be ready to liberate our territories any time from the invaders by military means." [7]

The same day Daniel Stein, senior assistant to the U.S. Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy, was in Azerbaijan where he confirmed strategic ties with the nation's government and said that as "global energy security is one of the priorities of US foreign policy, his country supports diversification of energy resources while delivering them to world markets." [8] Also on November 18 Stein's superior, U.S. Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy Richard Morningstar, addressed the European Policy Center, a Brussels-based think-tank, and said "Turkey will become a very strong transit country in transporting the gas of the Caucasus and Central Asia to Europe” - via Azerbaijan and Georgia - and "Turkmenistan and Iraq could join in as other suppliers besides Azerbaijan...." [9] The following day, November 19, a conference on NATO's New Strategic Concept: Contribution to the Debate from Partners was held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. The host country's deputy foreign minister, Araz Azimov, stated at the meeting:

"I offer the signing of bilateral agreements between NATO and partner countries to cover security guarantees for partner countries along with the responsibility and commitments of the parties. "Yes, we (partner countries) are important for NATO in general for the security architecture of the Euro-Atlantic area. Today Azerbaijan's borders are the borders of Europe." [10]

On November Azerbaijan hosted an international conference titled Impediments to Security in the South Caucasus: Current Realities and Future Prospects for Regional Development, co-sponsored by Britain's International Institute for Strategic Studies. Speakers included Ariel Cohen, Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and the Washington, D.C.-based Jamestown Foundation's President Glenn Howard and Senior Fellow Vladimir Socor. Socor, a Romanian emigre and former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty employee, in addressing the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno Karabakh, "stressed the necessity of an undertaking by NATO of analogous steps in this conflict taken for the settlement of the conflicts in the Balkans and former Yugoslavia." [11]

Novruz Mammadov, head of the Foreign Relations Department of Azerbaijan's presidential administration, said that "Azerbaijan is the only country in the post-Soviet space usefully and really cooperating with the West," and Elnur Aslanov, head of the Political Analysis and Information Department for the President of Azerbaijan, said:

"The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars projects...stimulate the development of regional cooperation, and also are important from the security standpoint....Azerbaijan is a reliable partner of the European security architecture...the country plays an important role in ensuring European energy security." [12]

Jamestown Foundation chief Glenn Howard added "that Azerbaijan is an important partner for NATO in terms of energy security," and backed the nation's deputy foreign minister's demand the previous day that NATO must offer Yugoslav war-style support to its Caucasus partners "especially after the war in Georgia last year." Howard added:

"NATO can give security guarantees to a country in case of an attack, which is what happened in 1979 in the Persian Gulf - after the fall of the Shah of Iran the US gave security guarantees to countries through bilateral agreements with those countries....If Azerbaijani troops are going to help in one area, that will lessen the need for NATO troops in this particular area, so that they can be involved in some other area, for example, that helps put more troops in fighting the Taliban...." [13]

Azerbaijan is not the only former Soviet republic the U.S. intends to use to penetrate the Caspian Sea Basin. After leaving Baku the State Department's Daniel Stein arrived in Turkmenistan where he stated that "The United States offers its mediating mission in Turkmen-Azerbaijan disputes over the Caspian status," in relation to a border demarcation conflict in a sea that the two nations share with Russia and Iran. He added, "The U.S. and EU member countries try to assure Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan that they should reach an agreement on the division of the Caspian to create real opportunities for Nabucco and other projects." [14]

The same day U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia George Krol was also in the Turkmen capital to deliver an address at the the annual Oil and Gas Conference there and said, "The U.S. considers energy security as a priority issue, and Central Asia is an important region in the global energy map." [15] In Azerbaijan's fellow GUAM member state Moldova, the new government of acting president Mihai Ghimpu, which came to power after April's so-called Twitter Revolution, announced that it was establishing a national committee to implement an Individual Partnership Action Plan for NATO membership. To indicate the importance the new administration attaches to integration with the bloc, "Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Iurie Leanca has been appointed committee chairman." [16]

Earlier this month it was reported that the government's Prosecutor General's Office had "dropped criminal proceedings against the people accused of masterminding riots in the republic's capital in April, following the Opposition's protest against the results of the parliamentary election....After the early parliamentary election on July 29 when the Opposition came to power, most cases were closed" and instead "When the new prosecutor general was appointed, criminal cases were opened against police who took part in driving the protesters from the city center and their arrests." [17]

On the same day that the Jamestown Foundation's Glenn Howard and Vladimir Socor were in Azerbaijan advocating NATO intervention in the South Caucasus, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden held a phone conversation with Georgian president and former U.S. resident Mikheil Saakashvili in which the first "reiterated the United States' 'strong support' for Georgia´s sovereignty and territorial integrity" and "underscored the importance of sustaining the commitment to democratic reform to fulfill the promise of the Rose Revolution." [18] Also on November 20 a major Russian news source reported that Washington had shipped nearly $80 million in weapons to Georgia in 2008 and plans to supply more in the future. "Despite the economic crisis, Georgia is increasing expenditure on arms purchases in the U.S.," although "Independent sources say[ing] Georgia´s unemployment stands at about one-third of its able-bodied population." [19]

On the same day a delegation from the Pentagon was in the Georgian capital to meet with Temur Iakobashvili, the nation's State Reintegration Minister - for "reintegration" read forcible incorporation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - and the Georgian official announced "We introduced to the guests our plan to ensure security in the occupied territories. We also talked about the role the U.S. will play in assisting the ensuring of regional security." [20]

The U.S. Defense Department representatives, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia Celeste Wallander, met with Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia "to hold consultations on defence cooperation issues concerning the two countries," and "Wallander personally inspected ongoing military trainings aimed at the preparation of the 31st Battalion of the GAF [Georgian Armed Forces] for participation in the ISAF operation in Afghanistan. The sides evaluated the US assistance provided during 2009 and considered in detail future cooperation prospects for 2010/2011.

"Under the visit's agenda the high-ranking US official met with the Security Council Secretary, Eka Tkeshelashvili, State Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili and Defence and Security Committee members of parliament." [21] The inspection mentioned above was of training following that conducted by U.S. Marines. The first contingent of new Georgian troops thus prepared was sent to Afghanistan four days before. Two days earlier NATO spokesman James Appathurai announced that the Alliance was forging ahead with plans for both Georgia's and Ukraine's full membership and that "assessments would be made at a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions to be held in Brussels in early December at the level of NATO foreign ministers." [22]

Also on November 18 Georgian Vice Premier and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze met with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels. "The Georgian delegation also included Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria and Deputy Defense Minister Nikoloz Vashakidze. A meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission at the ambassadorial level was also held in Brussels." [23] The day preceding the meeting, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Tina Kaidanow were in Georgia to convene "working meetings with Georgian authorities within the Strategic Partnership Charter. "The delegation will monitor the implementation of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Plan" inaugurated in January of this year, less than four months after the war with Russia. [24]

The prior week Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused Western and allied nations of continuing to arm Georgia, stating “I hope many take lessons from last year’s August events. But I have to say that according to the reports of various sources, some countries are sending arms and ammunition demanded by the Georgian leadership via different complicated schemes.” [25] Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin warned on the same day that "[Georgian] military drones have started flying over South Ossetia and Abkhazia" [26} and the day before Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the General Staff, said "Georgia is getting large amounts of weapons supplied from abroad" and "Georgian military potential is currently higher than last August." [27]

Makarov's contention was confirmed by Georgian Defense Minister Bacho Akhalaia on November 14 when he said "the country’s defense capabilities are now better than they were a year ago and they are further improving." The defense chief added, “a strong army will be one of our key priorities until the last occupant leaves our territories.” [28] The "occupants" in question are Russian troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Azerbaijan is not the only South Caucasus NATO partner preparing for war. Regarding the recently concluded two-week Immediate Response 2009 exercises run by the U.S. Marine Corps in Georgia, a leading Russian news site wrote "Perhaps, the exercises were aimed at issuing a warning to Russia." [29]

On November 13 the Russian General Staff revealed that "Russian secret services have declassified information about Georgia’s plans to start forming its special forces in a move that will be implemented in close cooperation with Turkey," and "voiced concern about Georgia’s ongoing push for muscle-flexing amid efforts by Israel, Ukraine and NATO countries to re-arm the Saakashvili regime." [30] In Ukraine, on November 19 Deputy Foreign Minister Kostiantyn Yeliseyev said of American ambassador to Georgia and ambassador designate to Ukraine John Tefft that "The U.S. Senate [Foreign Relations] Committee has approved his candidacy and we are expecting him to arrive soon." [31] In time for January's presidential election. Incumbent president and U.S. client Viktor Yushchenko is running dead last among serious candidates and his poll ratings are never higher than 3.5%. Tefft's task is to engineer some variant of the 2004 "Orange Revolution."

Yushchenko is a die-hard, intractable, unrelenting advocate of forcing his nation into NATO despite overwhelming popular opposition and for evicting the Russian Black Sea Fleet from the Crimea. On November 16 NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addressed High-Level NATO-Ukraine Consultations at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels and said:

"In 2008 at the Bucharest Summit NATO Heads of State and Government welcomed Ukraine’s aspirations for membership in NATO and agreed that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance. To reflect this spirit of deepening cooperation, Ukraine has developed its first Annual National Programme which outlines the steps it intends to take to accelerate internal reform and alignment with Euro-Atlantic standards." [32]

The same day Reuters revealed that "Poland and Lithuania want to forge military cooperation with Ukraine to try to bring the former Soviet republic closer to NATO." Poland's Deputy Defense Minister Stanislaw Komorowski was quoted as saying of the initiative, "This reflects our support for Ukraine. We want to tie Ukraine closer to Western structures, including military ones." [33] The agreement was reached at talks in Brussels attended by Ukraine's acting Defense Minister Valery Ivashchenko, Lithuania's Minister of National Defense Rasa Jukneviciene and Poland's Komorowski.

The combined military unit will be stationed in Poland and include as many as 5,000 troops. The joint buildup on Russia's western and northwestern borders "may have a political objective. It is meant to set up an alternative center of military consolidation for West European projects, a center which could embrace former Soviet republics (above all Ukraine), now outside NATO. There is no doubt who will control this process, considering U.S. influence in Poland and the Baltics." [34] On the same day that the Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian defense chiefs reached the agreement, Poland hosted multinational military exercises codenamed Common Challenge 09 with "2,500 troops from Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland - forming the so-called EU Combat Group....Common Challenge is being held for the first time in Poland. Exercises are conducted simultaneously in Poznan, western Poland, and the nearby military range in Wedrzyn." [35]

In a complementary development, The Times of London published an interview with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on November 15 in which he "said Italy would push for the creation of a European Army after the 'new Europe' takes shape at this week's crucial November 19 EU summit following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty." [36] A commentary from Russia, which of course will not be included in the plans, mentioned that "NATO has been actively discussing the possibility of establishing a joint European army for a long time" and that Frattini had "reiterated the need for deploying a joint naval fleet or air force in the Mediterranean or other areas crucial to European security." [37]

In a Wall Street Journal report titled "Central Europe Ready To Send More Soldiers To Afghanistan," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, again emphasizing the connection between war zone training in Afghanistan and preparation for action much closer to home, was quoted as saying "The credibility of NATO will be decided in Afghanistan. If NATO can be successful with what was a success in the Balkans and Iraq, its deterrent potential will rise, and it is in Poland’s national interest.” [38] On November 18 the ambassadors from all 28 NATO member states gathered in Brussels commented on Belarusian-Russian military exercises conducted months earlier, Operation West, and "expressed concerns about the large scale of the exercises and a scenario that envisioned an attack from the West...." [39]

Sikorski's allusion to so-called NATO deterrent potential is, then, clearly in reference to Russia. On November 17 the European Union's Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby announced that the first foreign ministers meeting of the Eastern Partnership program will be held next month. He said that "The Eastern Partnership will be under the jurisdiction of a new representative for foreign affairs and security. The appointment will come after the Lisbon summit,” [40] as will the creation of the new European Army Italian Foreign Minister Frattini spoke of earlier. Participants will include the foreign ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, half - six of twelve - of the members or former members of the Commonwealth of Independent States and all those in Europe and the Caucasus except for Russia, which is not invited.

Comparable efforts to pull the five Central Asian CIS members - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan - away from cooperation with Russia through a combination of an analogous EU partnership, energy project agreements and involvement in the Afghan war are also proceeding apace. The eighteen-year-old project of Paul Wolfowitz, Zbigniew Brzezinski et al. to destroy the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States and effect a cordon sanitaire around Russia, enclosing it with NATO member states and partners, has continued uninterruptedly since 1991.

Washington will not tolerate rivals and will ruthlessly attempt to eliminate even the potential of any nation to challenge it globally or regionally. In any region of the world. Russia, because of what it was, what it is, where it is and what it has - massive reserves of oil and natural gas, a developed nuclear industry and the world's only effective strategic triad outside the U.S. - is and will remain the main focus of efforts by the United States and NATO to rid themselves of impediments to achieving uncontested global domination.

Source: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16243

The West's Most-Cherished Desire: The Disintegration of the Russian Federation

http://wallszone.com/thumbnails/large_russian_bear_15239.jpeg

Old bear does not dance to Western tunes

-Should a "revolution" take place, the primary target of shock will be Russia itself. The worst nightmare would be the disintegration of the Russian Federation. This is the result the West most desires to see most.

-Personal trust is the reason that facilitated the strategic relations between China and Russia. However, the foundation of these ties is built upon a mutual dream of national revival which outstripped the interests that connected the West and Russia. China wants a stable Russia. The West is on the opposite side.


Will a "Russian Spring" occur? Russian police have arrested hundreds of protestors recently. But the pro-liberal protestors claimed that they will not succumb to such moves and continue to hold protests every day. This scenario is similar to the initial phrase of the Arab Spring, where the revolutionary movement was triggered by small- scale protests. It is hard to predict the outcome of the current protest on Russia's election scandal, but everything is possible.

Vladimir Putin's rule will face increasing scrutiny and it will become much harder for him to withstand the challenges. However, this is not a victory for the West. Putin losing authority will not automatically gain the West influence in Russia. The future of Russia will be shaped according to its own interests. This is the principle set by its democratic environment. Putin's own authority came because he put the country back to track. He saved Russia from the confusion and chaos when the USSR disintegrated two decades ago.

The relation between election and a candidate's authority is complicated. However the latest State Duma elections did not suggest that Russia's understanding of its national interests has become obscure, as during the Yeltsin era. Ballots lost by the United Russia are now in the pocket of the Communists and the Liberal Democrats, which does not reflect the expanding of the West's ideology.

Russian interests are dominated by a combination of geopolitics, culture and ambition. The differences and even the hostility between the West and Russia will persist if these interests contradict each other, no matter who sits in the Kremlin. Should a "revolution" take place, the primary target of shock will be Russia itself. The worst nightmare would be the disintegration of the Russian Federation. This is the result the West most desires to see most.

Russian society does not want to undergo this nightmare again. This concern has partly resulted from Putin's lasting authority. The unity United Russia can bring to this country is limited, but unity under democracy is not that convincing either. The painful lessons of the past will make Russians more reluctant to give up their trust in strongman politics to its democratic peers.

Personal trust is the reason that facilitated the strategic relations between China and Russia. However, the foundation of these ties is built upon a mutual dream of national revival which outstripped the interests that connected the West and Russia. China wants a stable Russia. The West is on the opposite side.

Russia has undergone many tough challenges. The "revolutions" in the Middle-East is a cakewalk compared to the movements the former communist state experienced. The country has made several twists and turns in choosing its own path. Russia is not similar to the countries swept by the Arab Spring. It is a unique state and will remain so.

Source: http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=2810

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